Legislation introduced would delist gray wolves

Legislation introduced last week by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) would remove gray wolves(Canis lupus) from Endangered Species Act protections. The American Wild Game and Livestock Protection Act (H.R. 6035) is the latest legislative attempt to remove gray wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species under the ESA.

A year ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed delisting gray wolves, which have been listed under federal endangered species laws since the 1960s, in the contiguous United States, Today, wolf populations in the Great Lakes area have grown to about 4,500 individuals and have spread into Wisconsin. The Northern Rockies population includes more than 1,500 wolves across Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, Utah and California, according to the USFWS. The proposed delisting does not apply to the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)or the red wolf (Canis rufus).

The USFWS’s previous attempts to delist various populations of gray wolves have been challenged repeatedly in court, with some rulings supporting delisting and some reversing the agency’s decisions. Congress removed wolves in the Northern Rockies from ESA protections through a rider attached to budget legislation in 2011.

The USFWS’s 2019 delisting proposal has not yet been finalized. Under the newly introduced bill, the Secretary of the Interior would be required to issue a final rule delisting the wolves, within 60 days of the legislation’s passage.

A companion to the House bill was introduced in the Senate in December, but the Senate has not taken any action on the bill.

The Wildlife Society endorses the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s delisting of gray wolf populations, as long as recovery targets continue to be met and demographic thresholds are maintained. The Society recognizes that state, provincial, and tribal fish and wildlife agencies are the responsible authorities for conserving and managing wolf populations in their respective jurisdictions and encourage those agencies to use sound science in designing and implementing wolf management programs.

Read TWS’ Position Statement on The U.S. Endangered Species Act, Issue Statement on  Wolf Restoration and Management in the Contiguous United States, and fact sheet on gray wolf management in the contiguous U.S.

Header Image: New legislation would remove gray wolves in the contiguous U.S. from ESA protections. ©Tracy Brooks/USFWS