By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
When the United States stripped federal protections for wolves last week, giving state managers in the lower 48 states the ability to greenlight trophy hunting and trapping seasons on these animals, we promised to fight this draconian move with every tool at our disposal. This week, we, along with our allies, put the Department of the Interior on notice that we will file a lawsuit in federal court to overturn this illegal delisting.
In a notice of intent to sue letter sent to Secretary David Bernhardt yesterday, we listed the many ways that delisting wolves violates both the Endangered Species Act and its overarching purpose, which is to conserve and recover imperiled species. The new rule ignores scientific evidence showing that wolves remain threatened, and prematurely abandons the prospect of recovery in areas like the West Coast and Southern Rockies where these animals have only just begun to reestablish a foothold. It also exposes wolves to cruel and excessive state-sponsored trophy hunting seasons.
In the past the courts have consistently sided with us on this issue. When wolves in the Western Great Lakes states were first delisted in 2009, we quickly won a court challenge overturning the delisting. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attempted to delist them again in 2011, we won major court decisions in 2014 and 2017 that put them back on the endangered species list and halted hunting and trapping seasons. In 2010, we won litigation to keep wolves in the Northern Rockies states protected until Congress—favoring special interests over science—took the unprecedented step of delisting them through a budget rider in 2011.
Our argument for protecting wolves and reversing the delisting decision is based on sound science. The government, on the other hand, delisted wolves in deference to the wishes of a handful of trophy hunters and other special interests who do not represent the vast majority of the American public. We are confident in our position because the law couldn’t be any clearer: the Endangered Species Act was created to help the conservation and recovery of vulnerable animals, and wolves are still in need of its protection. It was not created to give trophy hunters an opportunity to hunt these animals recklessly.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.