How a ruling on gray wolves could impact grizzlies

A precedent-setting decision on endangered species recovery echoes East to West.

 

This article was originally published by the HuffPost, and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A federal appeals court chose on Tuesday to keep in place Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region — a decision that could also have implications for Yellowstone grizzly bears and other wildlife.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a lower court’s 2014 ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted prematurely when it removed protections for wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The federal agency “failed to reasonably analyze or consider” the impacts of its decision on the greater population of gray wolves, the appeals court said.

Gray wolves have many different protection statuses over the U.S. In Wyoming, they were recently delisted in most of the state.
Anders Illum/Flickr

“The Service’s power is to designate genuinely discrete population segments; it is not to delist an already-protected species by balkanization,” the court ruled. “The Service cannot circumvent the Endangered Species Act’s explicit delisting standards by riving an existing listing into a recovered sub-group and a leftover group that becomes an orphan to the law.”

The decision blocks those three states from allowing limited hunting of the wolves. In 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule that removed Endangered Species Act protections for the Great Lakes wolves, which at the time had a population of around 4,400. Two years later, the Humane Society of the United States sued the Fish and Wildlife Service and its parent agency, the Interior Department, over the decision. A federal trial court sided with the nonprofit the following year, which meant the wolves went back on the protected list.

Ralph Henry, director of litigation at the Humane Society, said that the government had succumbed to political pressures, rushed a rule and took too narrow a focus. “We want species to come off the list,” Henry told HuffPost. “But we want them to come off the list because they are recovered.” 

The D.C. Circuit’s decision sets a valuable precedent, he said, and will likely have implications for other imperiled species. “I think this ruling is going to stand in the way of the Fish and Wildlife Service dealing with species recovery in a piecemeal fashion,” he said. The Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

In June, the Interior Department announced that after four decades on the Endangered Species Act list, the population of grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park has recovered to the point that they no longer require protection. The federal listing was lifted on Monday, with the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho taking over management of the approximately 700 bears in the Yellowstone area. A group of conservation nonprofits and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe plan to sue the Trump administration, arguing this latest decision ignores the best available science and violates the Endangered Species Act. 

By ending protections for Yellowstone grizzlies, the Fish and Wildlife Service has “created a legal orphan status for grizzly bears outside the delisted area,” the Center for Biological Diversity said in a release Tuesday. “Wolves and grizzlies are symbols of America’s wild places,” Noah Greenwald, the center’s endangered species program director, said in the statement. “We’re lucky the Endangered Species Act requires us to restore these magnificent animals and not declare victory when just one small population is stabilized.”

Among the numerous endangered species-related bills currently being considered by Congress are a pair of proposals that would strip protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region by requiring the Interior Department to reissue the 2011 rule.

“Congress should respect the ruling relating to the management of wolves in the Great Lakes and allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to re-examine the broader conservation questions raised by the courts,” Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the Humane Society of the United States, said Tuesday in a statement.

High Country News Classifieds
  • PLANNING & BUILDING DIRECTOR
    Searching for candidates with a Bachelor's Degree in Planning, Community Development, or a related field with 7 years' experience in land use planning forums, including...
  • LAND CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • NEWS DIRECTOR
    Based in the state capitol, Boise State Public Radio is the premier NPR affiliate in Idaho. With 18 transmitters and translators, it reaches 2/3rds of...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR MOJAVE DESERT LAND TRUST
    Organization Background: The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a non-profit 501(3)(c) organization, founded in 2006. Our mission is to protect the ecosystems of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • FORGE & FAB SHOP
    with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...
  • SMALL FARM AT THE BASE OF MOUNT SHASTA
    Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Home, barns, garage, separate apt, more. Just under 2 ac, edge of town. Famously pure air and water. Skiing, mountaineering, bike,...
  • FOREST STEWARDSHIP PROJECT DIRECTOR
    Become a force for nature and a healthy planet by joining the Arizona Chapter as Forest Stewardship Project Director. You will play a key role...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is accepting applications for an Executive Director. This position will provide leadership to RSA, develop a fund raising plan, and effectively communicate...
  • EQUITY IN THE OUTDOORS COORDINATOR
    The Equity in the Outdoors Coordinator will lead community engagement, program implementation and development, and data collection for the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM). EVOM...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a personable individual who is passionate about conservation to join our Sandpoint Field Office. The Community Engagement Assistant will...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT FLY ROD CASES
    4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION INTERN/ASSISTANT
    Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...
  • ENVIRONMENTAL INVESTIGATIVE MEDIA SERVICES
    In-depth investigations of polluters, lobbyists, regulators, elected officials and others focused on environmentally damaging projects in the U.S. and internationally. We specialize in mining projects,...
  • UNDEVELOPED 40 ACRES - SOUTHWEST COLORADO
    in beautiful Montezuma County.
  • TRUCK DRIVER
    Class A & B drivers, pass all DOT requirements and clean driving record
  • MARIA'S BOOKSHOP FOR SALE
    - Thriving Indie bookstore in the heart of Durango, Colorado. General bookstore with 34-year history as a community hub for Southwest region of CO. 1800...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details: