BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it has removed the gray wolf from federal protection, ending its status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and proclaiming a "successful recovery" of the species.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt visited the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to make the announcement, officially turning wildlife management responsibility over state and tribal agencies.
“Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law.”
The U.S. Department says that the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is estimated at more than 6,000 wolves, exceeding recovery goals specific to the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes.
In anticipation of Thursday's announcement, at least one conservation group said that it would file a lawsuit to challenge the change. The Center for Biological Diversity called the delisting "unscientific."
“Again and again, the courts have rejected premature removal of wolf protection,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But instead of pursuing further wolf recovery, the Fish and Wildlife Service has just adopted the broadest, most destructive delisting rule yet. The courts recognize, even if the feds don’t, that the Endangered Species Act requires real wolf recovery, including in the southern Rockies and other places with ideal wolf habitat.”
The Center for Biological Diversity said that the delisting will allow trophy hunting and trapping of gray wolves in some areas — where state and tribal authorities do not have local protections in place — and bring wolf recovery in the lower 48 states to a halt.
Oregon's state conservation plan currently protects wolves in some areas of the state, since the federal government previously scaled back protections in eastern parts of Oregon. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife director Curtis Melcher expressed in May of 2019 that he supported the move to end federal protection of gray wolves.
In the agency's latest annual report on wolf populations, ODFW officials recorded evidence of 158 wolves in the state.
Congressman Greg Walden applauded the delisting, saying that it will provide "much-needed relief" for ranchers.
"Oregon’s wolf population grew over 15 percent last year, and meanwhile, wolves continue to kill livestock in the area under federal management, with little recourse for local ranchers. Today’s action by the Trump Administration to officially delist the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List is long overdue. This move will allow our state wildlife officials to manage the wolves more effectively by allowing for a single management plan under local control,” said Walden.
Rep. Walden said that Thursday's announcement came shortly after he personally called the White House budget office to urge that the rule be finalized.