Lawsuit last hope for long-term wolf recovery in Northern Rockies

Suit filed as a last resort

(06/02/2009) - WASHINGTON – Today, Defenders of Wildlife and 12 other conservation groups filed a lawsuit asking the courts to reverse the ill-timed and unwarranted removal of Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. The lawsuit is a last resort, and only comes after exhausting all other reasonable options.

Regrettably, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar failed to fully consider both scientific and legal inadequacies underlying the Bush administration’s delisting rule before adopting it on April 2, 2009.  The Bush administration delisting rule adopted by Salazar essentially allows over two-thirds of the region’s wolves to be killed before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would even consider stepping back in and restoring protections.

The following is a statement by Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife:

“After working more than 20 years to restore wolves here, it’s a thrill to see the wolf population finally on the threshold of recovery with more than 1700 wolves in the region.  However, we cannot ignore that this delisting plan fails to protect their future and would allow states like Idaho, which has demanded that all wolves be removed ‘by any means necessary,’ to decimate the population to less than a few hundred wolves. We need a delisting plan that allows the wolf population to thrive while addressing the needs and concerns of our regional residents.   
“We had hoped to avoid the need for litigation, but Secretary Salazar’s decision to go forward with the Bush administration’s delisting plan, which allows states to reduce wolf numbers from 1650 (not including pups), to a mere 450 region wide, left us no choice.

“We are going to court in order to ensure that wolves are fully recovered and treated as key components of the Northern Rockies ecosystem – not as token isolated subpopulations maintained at the most minimum levels in national parks and wilderness areas. 

“We had expected at this point to be celebrating the recovery of the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies. Instead, after decades of recovery efforts, tremendous support and investment from the American public, impressive efforts by federal and state wildlife agencies, and one of the most successful wildlife restorations in history, the future of the gray wolf in the Rocky Mountains is once again in jeopardy.

“We look forward to one day seeing wolves fully recovered and under state management, but both the delisting plan and the state plans currently in place are not adequate to ensure the long-term recovery of wolves.

“Sadly, rather than committing to ensuring the long-term recovery of wolves, Secretary Salazar, like his predecessor in the Bush administration, has forced us again to the courts to reverse a delisting rule that puts us right back where we started – with a wolf population that cannot survive without federal protection.”

Learn more about Defenders' work to ensure the recovery of wolves in the Northern Rockies


Defenders of Wildlife is represented in this litigation by Earthjustice, along with plaintiffs Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Project, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit



Suzanne Stone, (208) 424-9385, (208) 861-4655
Erin McCallum, (202) 772-3217; (610) 207-5209

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