On Thursday, the Trump Administration announced that it would be stripping gray wolves of the protections afforded them by the Endangered Species Act in the lower 48 states. Conservationists and environmental groups protested the decision, saying the American gray wolf population is too fragile for such a move, warning that the species might not survive it.
There are around 6,000 gray wolves left in the region, mostly in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Interior Department announced that state wildlife agencies will now be in charge of managing these populations. “Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement. “After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery.”
But many experts disagreed with the Trump Administration, saying the gray wolf population is nowhere near robust enough to be stripped of protections, citing the vast space the species used occupy which once stretched to Utah, Colorado and even Maine. “Stripping protections for gray wolves is premature and reckless,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and chief executive for Defenders of Wildlife, told the Washington Post. “Gray wolves occupy only a fraction of their former range and need continued federal protection to fully recover. We will be taking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to court to defend this iconic species.”
“This is no ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment for wolf recovery,” agreed Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney. “This delisting decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy — and it’s illegal, so we will see them in court.”
The wolf population in the U.S. was once large and diverse, until it was driven to near-extinction by state-supported hunting, trapping and poisoning. Today, the fate of several types of American wolf hangs in the balance. Mexican wolves once roamed Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, but today there are only about 400 left, mostly in captivity. The only red wolves left are in zoos, except for about 30 living in North Carolina.
This is why conservationists remain unconvinced that gray wolves can be safely removed from the Endangered Species list, with experts telling the Post that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service underestimates the impact hunting will have.
The Trump Administration has butted heads with conservationists and environmental organizations frequently over the last four years. On Thursday, it lifted protections from the largest forest in the U.S. — the three million hectares of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. It’s a sweeping change that rolls back protections Tongass has enjoyed for nearly 20 years. “While tropical rainforests are the lungs of the planet, the Tongass is the lungs of North America,” Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist with the Earth Island Institute’s Wild Heritage project, told the Post. “It’s America’s last climate sanctuary.”