Seven months ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and Oregon off the endangered species list, marking the end of 34 years of protection. In July U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy issued an injunction against killing wolves in the region after conservationists filed suit, saying it was too early to delist the wolves. Yesterday, Molloy officially restored the wolf's endangered status.
The judge cited three reasons for his decision: wolves haven't established necessary genetic diversity to be viable; the Wyoming law that allowed unregulated shooting of the wolves was inadequate; and the population of 1200-1500 wolves is not big enough to ensure the species' survival.
Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator Ed Bangs said the agency would reapply for delisting "within four to five months" after revamping its proposal. But Doug Honnold of Earthjustice, a lawyer representing the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and 10 other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the issue would be back in court if "they are hellbent on delisting and just trying to paper over those major flaws" in the proposal.
Ranchers in Wyoming will retain the right to shoot wolves that are attacking livestock or dogs, and state agencies can still kill packs of wolves if they are damaging herds of elk or moose.
The federal government has spent more than $27 million on wolf recovery efforts in the Northern Rockies.
For more about the gray wolf, see HCN's video exploration of the topic, Still Howling Wolf.