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For Immediate Release: 04/12/07

Wildlife Protection Groups File Suit to Stop Delisting of Gray Wolves in Great Lakes Region

Washington, DC — Today, wildlife protection groups filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to remove the protections of the Endangered Species Act from gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region. The groups include The Humane Society of the United States, Help Our Wolves Live, and the Animal Protection Institute.

“The agencies’ decision to strip wolves of all federal protection is biologically reckless and contrary to the requirements of the Endangered Species Act,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president of litigation for The HSUS. “This species’ recent progress towards recovery should not be squandered by exposing them to mass killings and state-authorized hunting and trapping programs.”

“Some say removing the wolf from the ESA is a success story. Where is the ‘success’ in this story? The wolf has been returned to the very same management that endangered this animal in the first place,” said Linda Hatfield, Executive Director of Help Our Wolves Live.

“The gray wolf remains endangered across its historic range, and until the gray wolf has recovered across a significant portion of that range, the FWS cannot justify delisting the wolf,” said Nicole Paquette, Director of Legal and Government Affairs for the Animal Protection Institute. “If this decision is upheld, then it will open the door for numerous other unrecovered species to be delisted, thereby undermining the very purpose of the Endangered Species Act.”

The plaintiffs are represented in the case by Faegre & Benson LLP.

Facts

  • The decision to strip wolves of federal protection threatens the fragile remnants of the gray wolf population by confining existing populations to a core area in the Great Lakes region. The agency’s delisting efforts will prevent the wolves’ recovery throughout the vast majority of their historic range.
  • Now that management authority has been turned over to the states, wolf populations could face drastic reductions in their numbers. For example, the Minnesota wolf management plan — which now provides the only protection for wolves in that state — may allow the removal of nearly 50 percent of the current wolf population by a variety of means, including hunting and trapping.
  • The gray wolf (Canis lupus) once roamed across the United States in the hundreds of thousands. However, federally funded eradication programs, which lasted through the mid-1900s, bounty programs, poisons, trapping, and aerial shooting nearly eliminated the gray wolf from the lower 48 states. Approximately 5,000 gray wolves are thought to remain in the contiguous United States today.

Timeline

  • February 2007 — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues a final rule delisting the gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes. On the same day, the agency issues a proposal to delist the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population.
  • 2005–2006 — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tries to strip wolves of protection by issuing blanket permits to the state of Wisconsin that authorize state officials to kill dozens of wolves. These permits are thrown out by a federal court in response to a lawsuit by HSUS.
  • January 2005 — A federal court rules that the 2003 downlisting was arbitrary and capricious, returning the wolf to endangered status.
  • 2003 — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues a final rule downgrading most of the gray wolves living in the lower 48 states from endangered to threatened, making it easier for people to lethally take wolves.
  • 1974 — Gray wolf listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act throughout the lower 48 states.

Contact:
Tracey McIntire, 301-548-7793, tmcintire@hsus.org

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 10 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at www.humanesociety.org.

Help Our Wolves Live is a Minnesota nonprofit organization, dedicated to the protection and preservation of the gray wolf, lynx, and other endangered or threatened predator species. HOWL has over 250 members, most of whom live in the State of Minnesota.

The Animal Protection Institute is a national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. More information is available at www.api4animals.org.

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