American wolves are once again under urgent attack. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is readying a proposal to strip Endangered Species Act protections from wolves across the entire continental United States, which would arrest the recovery of these animals and banish them forever to isolated remnants of their historic range. Already, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming allow trophy hunters, trappers and ranchers to kill wolves, and their programs are likely to expand dramatically once federal protection disappears. We recently got a taste of what this will look like nationwide, when a hunter killed a beloved wolf who stepped out of the protected confines of Yellowstone National Park into Montana.
For years, the Humane Society of the United States has been a bulwark against this war on wolves. We’ve won a series of landmark legal cases to keep wolves protected under the ESA, and we have fended off Congressional attempts to reduce protections for these iconic American carnivores. We’ve even advanced and won state ballot initiatives to keep wolves out of the crosshairs and defended those victories in court.
Americans love wolves, and we want to protect them, not stand by as federal and state agencies send them into extinction. That is why, today, we, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, are proposing an alternative way forward to give wolves the needed protections, including reclassifying gray wolves from “endangered” to “threatened” status under the ESA.
Just because wolves are doing relatively well in in one core area does not mean that the entire species is recovered, and cutting ESA protections across the country, as the FWS has in mind, can cause serious and irreparable harm. The petition we are filing today recognizes that wolves occupy only a fraction of their historical range and must be protected and allowed to flourish in areas of suitable habitat. It aims to continue federal protection and funding of wolf recovery efforts and encourages the FWS to develop a national recovery plan for the species.
Under our proposal, federal and state agencies would have the flexibility to address specific wolf conflicts and livestock and property damage. This would foster true recovery, while maintaining a degree of flexibility to address local concerns.
The strategy we have proposed is based on the best available science and sound legal grounds, rather than a narrative of politics and fear. We strongly believe that by accepting our proposed solution, the FWS can avoid prolonged litigation and advance the interests not merely of wolves but of most Americans, by protecting our country’s most iconic wildlife, not putting them in trophy hunters’ crosshairs.