For Immediate Release
July 29, 2021
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910
70 groups formally petition to re-list wolves as “endangered” throughout the West
HAILEY, Ida. – Citing “inadequate regulatory mechanisms” in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and a lack of minimum viable populations of wolves in all other western states, a coalition of 70 conservation, Indigenous, and animal welfare groups today filed a formal petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to re-list the gray wolf as an endangered species throughout the American West under the Endangered Species Act. The re-listing petition comes in the wake of draconian new laws passed in Idaho and Montana to radically reduce wolf populations below biologically appropriate levels.
“Wolves remain completely absent from suitable habitats or perilously close to extinction in many western states, and the handful of states surrounding Yellowstone National Park are now driving the larger populations toward extinction — endangered species listing — by ramping up wolf killing and stripping away hunting and trapping regulations in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “This petition gives Secretary Haaland and Interim Director Williams a legal and scientific blueprint for restoring federal protections and counteracting the irresponsible state policies in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.”
The listing petition highlights scientific findings of multiple threats facing wolves in the western United States, including unregulated hunting in several states, poaching, genetic problems associated with low population levels, fragmented habitats, and disease outbreaks that strike at random, potentially reducing populations below critical thresholds. It calls upon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect wolves in the West as a Distinct Population Segment.
“The American West has vast tracts of public lands that offer ideal habitat for gray wolves,” said Molvar. “In order to return the wolf and restore the balance of nature, it is necessary to apply federal protections that supersede anti-wolf state politics that push wolf populations toward extinction rather than recovery.”
The groups’ petition comes in the wake of a groundswell of public recognition that wolves deserve to be listed under the Endangered Species Act, and that certain anti-conservation state governments are actively undermining wolf recovery in the lower 48 states. Over 120 Indigenous tribes and groups signed a wolf treaty calling for federal protection, and a documentary short film by the Global Indigenous Council was recently released, highlighting the cultural importance of wolves to Indigenous peoples. More than 400 scientists joined the call for federal wolf protections, recently bolstered by a letter from Members of Congress asking Secretary Haaland to step in and get the wolves back under the wing of Endangered Species Act protections. Today’s formal ESA petition requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to render a formal determination, called a “90-day finding,” determining whether substantial scientific and commercial information has been presented to support reinstating federal protections. This would be the first step on the road to restoring federal protections for this ecologically important, much-loved, oft-hated, and misunderstood species.
The groups submitting the petition include Western Watersheds Project, Bad River Tribe, WildEarth Guardians, Protect the Wolves, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Predator Defense, Footloose Montana, Colorado Wolf Alliance, Native Ecosystems Council, Western Wildlife Conservancy, Oceanic Preservation Society, Andean Tapir Fund, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Los Padres ForestWatch, Bozeman Broadband of Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Wyoming Untrapped, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath Forest Alliance, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, Endangered Species Coalition, Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, National Wolfwatcher Coalition, Western Wildlife Outreach, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, Californians for Western Wilderness, Apex Protection Project, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, EcoFlight, Wild Equid League of Colorado, Farmer Frog, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Dailypitchfork.org, Fleet of Angels, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Animal Wellness Action, Center for a Humane Economy, Animal Wellness Foundation, The Rewilding Institute, Montana Wilderness Education School, Friends of the Bitterroot, Project Coyote, Trap Free Montana Public Lands, Wolves of the Rockies, Friends of the Wild Swan, Born Free USA, Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, Friends of the Clearwater, Plan B to Save Wolves, Rocky Mountain Wild, Gallatin Wildlife Association, Friends of the Earth, Alberta Wilderness Association, Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Research, American Wild Horse Campaign, Equine Welfare Alliance, Friends of Animals, Conservation Congress, The International Wildlife Coexistence Network, Biophilia Foundation, Nevada Wildlife Alliance, Lynn Canal Conservation, Wild Arizona, Wilderness Watch, New Mexico Sportsmen, Rio Grande Indivisible – New Mexico, Sheep Mountain Alliance, Whispering Winds Animal Sanctuary, and Wolves Offered Life and Friendship (WOLF).