WASHINGTON (Feb. 12, 2013) – A coalition of wildlife protection groups, including The Humane Society of the United States, Born Free USA, Help Our Wolves Live and Friends of Animals and Their Environment, filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to remove the protections of the Endangered Species Act from gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent decision to delist wolves became effective last year, after multiple previous attempts to delist wolves were struck down by the courts over the course of the last decade. The decision threatens the fragile remnants of the gray wolf population by confining wolves to a small area in the Great Lakes region – where state wildlife managers have rushed forward with reckless killing programs that threaten wolves with the very same practices that pushed them to the brink of extinction in the first place.
“In the short time since federal protections have been removed, trophy hunters and trappers have killed hundreds of Great Lakes wolves under hostile state management programs that encourage dramatic reductions in wolf populations,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS. “This decision rolls back the only line of defense for wolf populations, and paves the way for the same state-sponsored eradication policies that pushed this species to the brink of extinction in the first place.”
“The Endangered Species Act is popularly considered one of the most powerful conservation laws on the books, but it is rendered impotent if species are not allowed to recover fully across the breadth of their range before delisting,” said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA. “Simply put, the gray wolf still requires protection under the Act.”
“Wolf populations are just at the threshold of rebounding in many areas across the Great Lakes Region,” said Linda Hatfield, executive director of Help Our Wolves Live. “The recent delisting has taken the wolf back to the old days, days before the ESA, the days of state-sponsored bounty payments to hunters and trappers that were intended to eliminate wolves from the landscape.”
Following federal delisting, Wisconsin and Minnesota rushed to enact emergency regulations to allow the first public hunting and trapping seasons in the Great Lakes region in more than 40 years. The states authorized some of the most abusive and unsporting practices, including hound hunting, snares, baiting, night hunting and the use of steel-jawed leg hold traps. Together, hunters and trappers killed more than 500 wolves in these two states in less than four months. These losses are in addition to natural limiting factors and a wide range of other human-caused impacts, such as the killing of wolves by damage control agents, poachers, and, inadvertently, by automobile drivers.
The Michigan legislature recently amended state law to designate wolves as a game species, which would allow the state to authorize a trophy hunting and trapping season for wolves. There is a referendum campaign, launched by animal welfare and conservation groups and Native American tribes, in progress to place the measure on the ballot and nullify the action of the legislature.
The plaintiffs are represented in the case by Schiff Hardin, LLP and attorneys within The HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation section. The complaint was filed in the federal district court for the District of Columbia.