HSUS, allies sue Trump administration for delisting wolves

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on January 14, 2021 with 9 Comments

In October last year, the Trump administration stripped federal protections for wolves, giving state managers in the lower 48 states the ability to greenlight trophy hunting and trapping seasons on these animals. Today, we and our allies sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over this illegal and premature decision that is riddled with legal and scientific pitfalls and has the potential to devastate America’s still-recovering wolf population.

The FWS cited “successful recovery efforts” as the reason for delisting. The science, however, shows otherwise: wolves remain threatened nationwide and are, in fact, still absent from 70 percent of the habitat where they once ranged and that could still sustain wolf populations today.

Some wolf populations, such as those on the west coast and in the southern Rocky Mountains, are especially small and vulnerable, and risk disappearing forever because of the delisting decision.

Our lawsuit argues that by treating the plight of these fragile populations as insignificant and ignoring the natural and manmade threats that wolves nationwide still face, the government is in violation of the Endangered Species Act and its legal duty of protecting wolves and helping them recover.

We know wolves don’t stand a chance with wildlife managers in states where they have been historically persecuted. Some of these states had already begun planning the carnage even before the delisting decision was finalized. For instance, members of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, a governor-appointed group that sets policy for the state’s Department of Natural Resources, pushed for a wolf hunt to occur immediately upon delisting. They put that plan on hold after we sent them a letter warning such a move would be unscientific and illegal, but still plan to move forward with a hunting and trapping season in the fall.

Michigan and Minnesota have said they will hold off on a wolf trophy hunting season until they update their respective wolf management plans, but trophy hunting, predator control and trapping interests as well as cattle producers are continuing to push for a hunt there as soon as possible.

Wolves dispersing from populations in the Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountains regions are critical to recolonizing neighboring areas and ensuring the long-term genetic health of the species by establishing connectivity between the currently disjunct populations. Unfortunately, some key states have already declared war on wolves. In a recent statement on the federal delisting, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks stated it does not support gray wolf expansion in South Dakota. Without federal protections any wolves that disperse into the state in search of a mate or territory can be shot at sight, year-round, by anyone with a state hunting license (landowners on their own land and children under 16 don’t even need a license).

In Utah, before federal delisting, it was state policy to request the immediate removal of any wolves in the parts of the state where they were federally listed as endangered, and to prevent the establishment of a viable pack in the small northern corner of the state where they were not protected. While wolves will now be “allowed to disperse into the state,” it is likely they will continue to face an uphill battle.

It is hard to wrap one’s head around such unbridled antagonism toward and enthusiasm for killing one of our nation’s most iconic carnivores. It was such attitudes that led to wolves, who once roamed across nearly all of North America, including most of the lower 48 states, being relentlessly shot, trapped and poisoned. Wolves had nearly disappeared from the contiguous United States by the early 20th century. After they received federal protections in 1975, their population had slowly begun to crawl back from the brink of extinction. The federal delisting now all but guarantees that progress will be reversed.

This is not the first time we’ve taken the government to court to protect wolves. Since 2003, the government has repeatedly wasted its time and taxpayer funds to pursue a losing argument, dictated by trophy hunters and ranchers, to delist wolves everywhere in the United States based on progress made toward recovery in just a few areas. But courts have consistently rejected this approach, most recently in our precedent-setting 2017 victory at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. We have repeatedly worked with congressional leadership to fight back riders in appropriations vehicles and standalone bills requiring the FWS to delist wolves for many years (there are already attempts in the new Congress to delist wolves that we will be fighting).

The mandate for the FWS couldn’t be clearer: it is charged with conserving and protecting native wildlife. It is time FWS officials do the job Americans hired them to do and protect wolves from those looking to kill them for a thrill. When they choose to do otherwise, we will be here to hold them accountable.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Frances Recca says:

    The wolf is the lynchpin in all ecological environments. when allowed to live their lives, they balance out the system that houses their dens. only total fools want to eliminate the wolf in their natural habitats. Trophy hunters are not real hunters, they are cowards with specialized guns and scopes- real brave …not!!!! MOST TROPHY HUNTERS THAT I HAVE MET ARE COWARDS AND PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO. A RICH PERSON’S PASTTIME…. I know some real hunters – they use the meat they shoot-they donate what they shoot to zoos etc. they help the world around them!!!!!

    • Paula Dejong says:

      Thank you Frances.
      .I totally agree with your comment. Especially the description of these trophy hunters as complete cowards and the fact of the wolf being the Lynchpin in ecological environments. How do we get these people to stop their senseless killing?.

  2. Linda Delong says:

    I’m with you HSUS, they need to stop this right now. Giving people to go on a killing spree , I pray you win this for the wolves sake .

  3. Edward Barney says:

    Wolves have been unjustly demonized for Generations. It needs to stop.

  4. Sheila Kraatz says:

    We as humans have extinguished many species. We must as claiming to be humanitarian’s work hard at preserving as many species as we can. We need to act before the many wild animals are only able to be seen in zoo’s, museum’s and documentaries. It’s our responsibility to be involved in saving our planet and ALL living creatures.

  5. LL says:

    It is sickening how low humans will go to satisfy their greed and lust for killing. I truly hope and pray your lawsuit is an overwhelming success. I hope the Biden Administration will purge the USDA and Dept of Interior of all managers who are sympathetic to the trophy hunters’ and ranchers’ interests.

  6. MS says:

    The slaughter is on. Idaho has just massacred over 500 of my wolves. So you lost in court? How is this happening? And what are the next steps before another 500, 700, disappear from my Mother Earth forever?

  7. Brenda Kaye Hixenbaugh says:

    Sara Amundson and staff, I want to thank you with every ounce of my being. For being there when the wolf and other victims are in need, it is too bad that all the groups that are pro whatever the species is put in charge of the protection and wellbeing of the species, then stupid crap like this would not be going on because there wouldn’t be any species haters or blood lusters calling the shots and the ranchers wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. This is what is really needed. Someday God willing the inhuman that walk among us will be extinct, until then please keep up the good and needed work to save these iconic beautiful creatures much like our Wild Mustangs and so many more.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.