More than 45 years after gray wolves were first listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced the successful recovery of the gray wolf and its delisting from the ESA. The department based its final determination on what it calls the best scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats, and how they have been alleviated, and the ongoing commitment and proven track record of states and tribes to continue managing for healthy wolf populations once delisted. This analysis includes the latest information about the wolf’s current and historical distribution in the contiguous United States.
After the announcement, many agricultural groups showed their approval.
“National Association of Conservation Districts is pleased to see the agency’s decision to delist the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act (ESA)’s endangered and threatened list,” NACD President Tim Palmer said. “Its delisting is a credit to the hard work of locally-led conservation. Returning management of the species to states and tribes will give conservation districts and landowners, who are the best suited to make on-the-ground decisions, more say in the management of the species.”
In total, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000 wolves, greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President and Minnesota rancher Don Schiefelbein said, “The recovery and delisting of the gray wolf is an outstanding victory under the Endangered Species Act and should be celebrated accordingly. Today’s announcement is the culmination of decades of work done by cattle producers and landowners nationwide to protect habitat ensuring wolf recovery efforts were successful, even when impacts to their livelihoods were significant. The road to recovery and delisting has been fraught with purely political lawsuits that promoted emotion over fact, and the facts are clear: the gray wolf population is recovered and states are well-equipped to manage this population.”
Public Lands Council President Niels Hansen also attended the event, lending support to ranching communities who have continued to be affected by significant depredation events as a result of dense wolf populations.
“Today’s announcement is welcome news for public lands ranchers who have spent decades defending their livestock from wolves while also defending previous delisting rules in court,” said Hansen. “By returning gray wolves to state management, we are giving long-overdue recognition to a conservation victory under the Endangered Species Act and returning to a state wildlife management model that has demonstrated success for thousands of other species. I look forward to the next chapter in management of this species that allows ranchers, biologists, and government officials to continue to work together for the benefit of our communities, our economies, and our wildlife because the best decisions always come from those closest to the subject.”
The American Agri-Women said, “The AAW supports state and local control for the management of all species of predators, such as the gray wolf. The protections put in place for the gray wolf should include protection for agriculture as well. State and locally kept records showing issues that arise for humans and cause harm to the livelihood of farmers and ranchers as the gray wolf preys on livestock including cattle.”