|Photo Caption: Gray wolf. Credit: Gary Kramer / USFWS|
Department of the Interior Celebrates Recovery of the Gray Wolf with Proposal to Return Management to States, Tribes
The gray wolf, an iconic species of the American West, had all but disappeared from landscape in the lower 48 states by the early 20th century. Now it roams free in nine states and is stable and healthy throughout its current range. This constitutes one of the greatest comebacks for an animal in U.S. conservation history. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is re-affirming the success of this recovery with a proposal to remove all gray wolves from protection under Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Thanks to the partnerships involving states, tribes, conservation organizations and private landowners galvanized under the ESA, the Service is now able to propose turning management of all gray wolves back to the states and tribes who have been so central to the species’ recovery. This proposal excludes Mexican gray wolves, which would remain listed under the ESA.
The gray wolf joins the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American alligator, brown pelican and 33 other species of animals and plants in U.S. states, territories and waters that have been brought back from the brink with the help of the ESA. Countless more have improved or stabilized.
The gray wolf has already been delisted in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The states of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington have shown their ability to manage this delisted wolf population responsibly so that it remains healthy and sustainable. Populations in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are also strong and wolves have begun to expand into northern California and Western Oregon and Washington.
In total, the range-wide gray wolf population stands at more than 6,000, exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations.
On March 15, 2019, the Service published a proposed rule in the Federal Register and announced the opening of a 60-day public comment period on the proposed action, ending May 14, 2019. In response to requests, the Service extended the comment period until July 15, 2019, to allow all interested parties additional time to comment on the proposal and to allow for a public hearing, which was held on June 25, 2019, in Brainerd, Minnesota. In addition, a final peer review report on the proposal was made available on June 3, 2019.
The proposal to delist gray wolves is based on sound science, 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.