October 29, 2020
By Game & Fish Staff
The Thursday announcement by the Trump Administration that the gray wolf would be delisted as a threatened species received a quick thumbs up from hunting groups.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the decision would lift protections for most wolf populations in the lower 48 states, with the exception of Mexican gray wolves found in the Southwest. Gray wolf management would return to state and tribal agencies.
In a press release, the Department of the Interior said the gray wolf population in the lower 48 now numbers more than 6,000 wolves, "exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations."
"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," Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a statement. "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 decision to remove federal protections the gray wolf received under the Endangered Species Act is expected to face legal challenges from conservation groups, who feel the species hasn’t completely recovered.
Here’s how the Safari Club International and National Shooting Sports Foundation reacted in separate statements released Thursday:
Safari Club International
After 45 years of protection, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced today its decision to delist the gray wolf from the list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This decision is unequivocally based on the best available science, including both recent and historical information regarding wolf numbers and distribution in the contiguous U.S. One of America's greatest conservation success stories is finally receiving the recognition and celebration it deserves.
"Safari Club International and our members throughout the country applaud Secretary Bernhardt and Director Skipwith for seeing past emotionally driven rhetoric and letting the best scientific and commercial data available guide their decision to delist the gray wolf," said SCI International CEO W. Laird Hamberlin. "This is an Endangered Species Act success story and one that should be celebrated by all conservationists. We look forward to working with state fish and wildlife agencies and conservation partners alike to ensure wolf population levels are maintained in line with management objectives.”
Few organizations have been more closely involved with the issue of wolf delisting than SCI. For almost 20 years, SCI has gone to court to advocate for state management of wolves. SCI has defended the USFWS's delisting of the Northern Rocky Mountain wolves, Western Great Lakes wolves, and Wyoming's wolves in numerous cases. SCI's legal team has also filed petitions for wolf delisting, submitted multiple comments supporting delisting rules, and testified in public hearings. SCI's government affairs team has also supported and been engaged on numerous pieces of congressional legislation aimed at delisting gray wolves.
The SCI Foundation has also been active on wolf-related research, providing hundreds of thousands of private dollars to leverage millions of state and provincial dollars dedicated to improving the scientific understanding of wolf ecology and population dynamics in Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming.
"Wolves deserve to be managed by very best science available to ensure that their populations are sustainable into the future," said Jim Hammill - chairman of SCIF's Conservation Committee and a retired biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "There is no question that wolves are recovered in nearly all of their suitable remaining range. State wildlife agencies have the expertise and ultimate responsibility for management of this iconic species.”
SCI will continue supporting the transition of wolf management to the states and will continue to advocate for hunting as a management tool for wolves. As has been proven with other predator species, hunting can effectively manage population numbers, reduce conflicts with humans and livestock, and provide incentives for landowner tolerance while funding the science-based North American model of conservation.
National Shooting Sports Foundation
NSSF®, the trade association for the firearm industry, applauded the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) announcement that Gray Wolf wildlife management is being returned to the states following the successful population recovery under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Final Rule will go into effect in 30 days to delist Gray Wolves, which exceed 6,000 in the lower 48 states, far beyond the goal set 45 years ago when they were first listed for federal protection. State and tribal wildlife agencies will resume responsibility to sustainable management.
"The National Shooting Sports Foundation® is thrilled by this conservation success," said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President and CEO. "The firearm industry is proud of the more than $13.1 billion paid by firearm and ammunition manufacturers since 1937 for sustainable wildlife recovery and conservation. Gray Wolf populations have exceeded their recovery mandates but have remained on the ESA list because of outdated regulations and an outdated law. Secretary Bernhardt and the Trump Administration have worked hard to bring the rules up to date and this is the latest example. Here’s where red tape should give way to sound science and the effective and lasting achievements of private industry and government agencies working with hunting-conservationists who are the greatest stewards of our natural resources."
NSSF has supported efforts to delist Gray Wolves when conservation recovery programs met and exceeded the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations. Gray Wolves were previously de-listed from the ESA in the Rocky Mountain states. Scientific and commercial information demonstrates wolves currently listed are recovered and no longer meet the ESA definitions of a threatened species or an endangered species. USFWS noted the Western Great Lakes wolf population in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the largest outside Alaska, is strong and stable.
Gray wolves delisted in the Rocky Mountain states roam across Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and eastern portions of Oregon and Washington. These states are successfully managing wolf populations effectively and responsibly. Wolves have even expanded into western Oregon, western Washington, northern California and most recently in northwest Colorado.