The Biden Administration is moving to leave vulnerable wolves stripped of federal protections, despite campaign promises to protect them.
Court documents show the federal government asked a judge to toss a lawsuit recommending that President Joe Biden re-list gray wolves as vulnerable species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The lawsuit — filed by attorneys with Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and EarthJustice on behalf of several animal welfare and conservation groups against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Department of Interior (DOI) and DOI Secretary Deb Haaland, respectively — alleged that wolves have not actually recovered.
Attorney Kristen Boyles, in speaking about the filing of Earthjustice’s lawsuit in January, said the rollback was “what happens when bad science drives bad policy.”
Wolves have been without an endangered species listing — or the corresponding protections — since the Trump Administration stripped all wolves in the lower 48 U.S. states in November 2020. Independent peer reviews found that decision was not backed by science.
Biden — during his presidential campaign and after taking office — said he would request a review of the ESA rollbacks.
That review took the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a matter of days, after which the department announced the decision was “valid.”
The federal government is sticking to that statement, saying in court documents that USFWS “rationally concluded that gray wolves are recovered” and that staff had adequately analyzed the threats to wolves in “significant” portions of their range, according to CBS News.
The government court’s filing points to slightly more than 6,000 gray wolves remaining in the United States — mostly concentrated in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, and northern California.
Boyles, the Earthjustice attorney, called the move a betrayal.
“The Biden administration has betrayed its duty to protect and recover wolves,” she said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service has the power to stop the immoral killing of wolves right now, and its refusal to act violates the law and the best science, as well as its treaty obligations to tribal nations.”
The government’s move contradicts campaign promises from Biden to protect wolves, with the President reportedly saying he was “all in” about hearing what he could do to help wolves after his grandchildren reportedly told him, “they’re going to kill all the wolves!,” according to Earthjustice.
Earthjustice says the most important — and effective — step that Biden could have taken was restoring ESA protections.
In addition to animal welfare advocates, more than 1.8 million Americans, 400 veterinary professionals, hundreds of scientists and businesses, and 86 members of Congress spoke out against the November 2020 de-listing.
While we are disappointed in the federal government’s dual decisions to strip wolves of protections, we thank the more than 32,400 people who signed our petition asking for their re-listing under the Endangered Species Act.
We will continue to fight for humane treatment of wolves and all other animals.
If you haven’t already, sign our petition demanding an end to the cruel and inhumane slaughter of this persecuted species.