Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region will remain on the federal endangered species list, at least for now. A three judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. has upheld a district court ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted prematurely in removing federal Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
Wisconsin created a wolf hunting season after management of the animals was returned to states in 2011. However, amid a strong pushback from environmental groups, a federal judge placed the animal back under federal protection in 2014. Advocates for wolves have also argued that the population numbers are not stable enough yet to allow hunting seasons to take place.
Federal regulators and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources argue that wolf populations in the region have recovered, and that management ought to return to the states. In Wisconsin, that would include allowing wolf hunting. The appeals panel on Tuesday said the government failed to reasonably consider factors including loss of the wolf’s historical range.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) issued the following statement regarding the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision keeping the gray wolf protected:
“Unfortunately, given Harry Reid’s successful packing of the D.C. circuit with judicial activists, this outrageous decision was to be expected. Regardless of what judges in Washington imagine, the government’s own wildlife experts have ascertained that the species is not endangered. Indeed, the wolf population in northern Wisconsin is causing major problems for farmers and ranchers as it continues to grow unchecked. Wisconsin should be permitted to manage the wolf population according to science rather than judicial whim.”
Johnson has introduced legislation in consecutive sessions of Congress to follow the findings of federal wildlife experts and delist the gray wolf in Wisconsin and allow wolf management plans that are based on federal and state wildlife expertise to move forward without any legal ambiguity.