For Immediate Release, December 10, 2007
Contact: Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 283-5474
Conservation Group Joins Suit to Protect Gray Wolf in Great Lakes
Center for Biological Diversity Granted Amicus Status in Litigation to
Retain Protection for Wolves Under the Endangered Species Act
WASHINGTON, DC– On December 4, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Center for Biological Diversity’s motion to participate as an amicus curiae party in a case seeking to retain protection for gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit challenges the Bush administration’s most recent attempt to weaken and remove protection for the gray wolf in the lower 48 states.
“The gray wolf is gone from 95 percent of its range in the lower 48 states,” said Amy Atwood, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity and one of the authors of the Center’s amicus brief. “Although wolf numbers have increased in a few states, it is too soon to abandon their recovery in the many states that have habitat where wolves could thrive once again.”
Rather than retaining Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service simultaneously created and delisted a “distinct population segment” of gray wolf that resides in the western Great Lakes region. The agency has similarly proposed to draw a circle around wolves in the northern Rockies and remove their protection. In taking these actions, the Fish and Wildlife Service has abandoned protection and recovery for wolves throughout the majority of their range in the contiguous United States.
“The Bush administration’s misuse of the Endangered Species Act to confine recovery of the gray wolf to a fraction of its former range cannot stand,” said Atwood. “The administration’s actions set a disastrous precedent for hundreds of endangered species that occupy fractions of their ranges.”
The case, Humane Society of the U.S., et al. v. Kempthorne, et al., Civ. No. 07-00677 (D.D.C.), is pending before Judge Paul L. Friedman of the D.C. District Court.
Gray wolves are the largest wild members of the dog family, with adults ranging from 40 to 175 pounds, depending upon sex and subspecies. Wolves’ fur color is frequently a grizzled gray, but it can vary from pure white to coal black. Wolves are social, mobile animals and often travel 10 to 30 miles per day in packs of two to twelve, which are primarily family groups consisting of a breeding pair, their pups from the current year, offspring from one or two previous years, and occasionally an unrelated wolf. Wolves are primarily predators of medium and large mammals; wild prey species in North America include white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, caribou, bison, muskox, bighorn sheep and Dall sheep, and mountain goat. When necessary, wolves also eat smaller prey like snowshoe hare, beaver, and muskrat, and at times small mammals, birds, and large invertebrates. Wolves are habitat generalists, and when they are not being persecuted by humans, they can live anywhere that contains a sufficient population of large ungulates.
Wolves once roamed throughout North America to southern Mexico (with limited geographic exceptions). They coexisted with Native American nations, but European settlers persecuted the animals on a widespread basis with poisons, trapping, and shooting that was sanctioned and carried out by federal, state, and local governments through official public policies.
Since 1978, due to the substantive protections of the Endangered Species Act, gray wolf numbers have increased in two small fractions of the species’ former range in the Northern Rockies and the Great Lakes. Between 1979 and 1998, the occupied wolf range in Minnesota doubled in size, and wolves dispersed from Minnesota into northern Wisconsin and into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There are now wolves in all three states, but the vast majority of the Great Lakes wolf population is still limited to northern Minnesota. The gray wolf remains extirpated across about 95 percent of its historic range.
The Bush administration’s last attempt to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves was rejected by two federal courts.
The Bush administration has listed fewer species under the Endangered Species Act than any other administration since the law was enacted in 1973, to date listing only 58 species compared to 522 under Clinton and 231 under George Bush Sr. The current Bush administration has not listed a single species in nearly 18 months. In August, the Center presented Secretary of Interior Kempthorne the “Rubber Dodo Award” for failing to protect any new species under the Endangered Species Act.