The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would join hunting groups and the state of Utah in appealing a federal judge’s recent decision to restore Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections to gray wolves in most of the Lower 48 states.
“This announcement marks a stunning and supremely disappointing reversal by the administration,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, CEO and president at Defenders of Wildlife. “Despite President Biden’s warnings about the looming threat of biodiversity loss, his administration is attempting to quash a significant ecological victory.”
Over the past decade, the federal government has slowly eliminated federal protections for gray wolves, starting with wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains in 2011. In November 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced its decision to remove federal protections for gray wolves throughout the remaining Lower 48 states, despite a dearth of scientific evidence to justify the move.
The decision, which took effect on January 4, 2021, affected gray wolves in at least 44 states, most prominently in the western Great Lakes, the central Rockies and Pacific Coast. The removal of protections had immediate consequences for wolves, leaving them vulnerable to hunting, trapping, poisoning and other lethal measures. During the 2021-2022 hunting season, 24 Yellowstone wolves were killed in neighboring Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
On February 10, 2022, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White ruled that the FWS decision to remove federal ESA protections from gray wolves was premature, restoring protections to thousands of wolves. The decision was met with appeals from Safari Club International, the National Rifle Association and the state of Utah.