New Lawsuit Launched Against The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service For Failure To Develop National Gray Wolf Recovery Plan

The Center for Biological Diversity notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by letter today that it intends to sue over the agency’s failure to create a national wolf recovery plan as required by the Endangered Species Act. The planned lawsuit would seek to require the Service to draft a recovery plan that includes all populations of wolves in the contiguous United States.

“The Service’s piecemeal approach isn’t enough to protect and restore wolves,” Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the Center, said in a statement. “By not completing a national recovery plan, which it is legally required to do, the agency has failed wolves and the millions of people who want these amazing animals to thrive across the country.”

The Center filed a petition in 2010 requesting that the Service prepare a national recovery plan. So far, the agency’s approach has focused on individual wolf populations in separate geographic areas, instead of looking at both current and potential wolf habitat, and all existing populations in the lower 48 states.

In 2019, the Service denied this petition. Today’s notice of the intent to sue challenges that denial and the Service’s failure to prepare a national recovery plan. The planned lawsuit would also challenge the Service’s failure to complete the required five-year status review of the species in a timely manner. The last review was completed more than a decade ago.

“We have seen time and time again that when the Endangered Species Act is implemented properly it really works,” stated Ressler. “We are asking the Service to comply with the law and allow the Act to truly work for wolves.”

Scientists estimate that as many as two million gray wolves once roamed the contiguous United States. Because of government-sponsored killing programs, that number dwindled to only 1,000 animals, who resided almost entirely in northeastern Minnesota.

Federal protections have allowed the population to slowly increase, but wolves still occupy only 10% of their native habitat. Despite this, the Service continuously attempts to remove protection for the species.

“That the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to develop a national wolf recovery plan as required by the Endangered Species Act, is absurd. We rely on the specifications outlined in the ESA to keep our nation’s most vulnerable animals, like wolves, safe,” said Leslie Williams and Lizzie Hoag, founding members of the #RelistWolves Campaign.

“Today, the population of wolves is in jeopardy. Gray wolves are functionally extinct in 80% of their historic range and just 6,000 wolves live across the continental U.S. Gray wolves once ranged from coast-to-coast, they don’t observe state boundaries, and their territories span ecosystems,” continued Williams and Hoag. “This wide-ranging animal should not be managed state-to-state, but rather under national protection. The Service must develop a recovery plan that includes all populations of wolves in the contiguous United States for wolf recovery to be successful.”  

Most recently, a rule finalized in November 2020 removed all Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves nationwide. A federal court vacated this rule and restored species protection in the lower 48 states. These protections do not extend to the Rocky Mountain population, which are currently not protected under the Act. The Center and its allies recently filed a lawsuit to restore those protections.

The Endangered Species Act requires that parties submit a 60-day notice of intent to sue before a lawsuit can be filed. If the Service fails to remedy its legal violations within 60 days, the Center will file a formal lawsuit.

You can take action by asking your representatives to put pressure on Deb Haaland and President Biden to #RelistWolves, HERE!

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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