PETITION TARGET: U.S. President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland
Gray wolves could soon be shot from helicopters, snared in steel traps, and killed without limit if the federal government doesn’t take immediate action and re-list them as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Gray wolves, persecuted for centuries, had only begun their needed recovery when the federal government in October 2020 stripped them of protections. In their sweeping decision to delist all gray wolves living in the lower 48 U.S. states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) pointed to a total 6,000 gray wolves — mostly concentrated in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, and northern California — and the “proven track record” of states and tribes to manage for “healthy” wolf populations.
But that hasn’t been the case for wolves in our country without federal protections. Their numbers dropped to a mere 1,000 animals in the 1970s, when they were so massively poisoned and shot by farmers, trappers, and trophy hunters that alarmed conservationists pushed for their classification as an endangered species.
That bloody history is looking to repeat itself, as many of the states with the largest wolf populations since the de-listing have passed reckless policies, opposed by wildlife experts, and approved massive killings with cruel and inhumane methods that could take wolves right back to the brink of extinction.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed legislation, effective July 1, that will allow trophy hunters and private contractors to trap and destroy 90 percent of the state’s wolf populations, including shooting the animals from helicopters and snowmobiles or using night vision equipment to kill them in their family dens.
Legislators in Montana and Wisconsin, two of the other strongholds for our nation’s only remaining wolves in the lower 48, also are pushing for gruesome laws that will allow hunters to shoot wolves at night or tear apart the animals with steel traps or hunting hounds. In direct contrast to the FWS’s stated conviction that states can properly manage their wolf populations, hunters in Wisconsin killed 216 wolves over the course of three days — double what the state had set as its announced quota.
While governments in some of the other states have been more willing to co-exist — Colorado’s governor recently celebrated the first gray wolf pups spotted in nearly 80 years, and Washington’s populations have remained stable — conservationists are still sounding the alarm.
“Wolves are only starting to get a toehold in places like Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and wolves need federal protection to explore habitat in the Southern Rockies and the Northeast,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice. “This delisting decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy — and it’s illegal, so we will see them in court.”
It is time to give gray wolves back the critical protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act before we lose them forever.
More than 1.8 million Americans, 400 veterinary professionals, hundreds of scientists and businesses, and 86 members of Congress spoke out against the de-listing last November. With a new administration, there is new hope for a brighter future for these precious wolves.
U.S. President Joe Biden, upon taking office, told the USFWS to review the previous administration’s order to de-list gray wolves, which independent peer reviews found was not backed by science. But the agency instead issued the announcement, after a review that lasted a mere five business days, that the decision was valid. Biden then announced he was backing off from re-listing the wolves.
This lackadaisical response from a federal agency responsible for appropriately stewarding our nation’s vulnerable wildlife is completely unacceptable. It’s also inaccurate.
In June and July, the USFWS received two legal petitions urging the re-listing of gray wolves that the federal agency said “present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted.”
The first petition — filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Sierra Club — makes the case for listing gray wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains area as threatened.
The second petition, filed by Western Watersheds Project and 70 other organizations, requests federal protections for wolves in western North America.
It is time for persecuted and vulnerable gray wolves to once again be afforded protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Sign our petition urging U.S. President Joe Biden, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and the USFWS to listen to the science on the status of gray wolves and re-afford them needed protections under the Endangered Species Act.