Bookmark and Share

More press releases

For Immediate Release, September 29, 2008

Contact: Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (541) 914-8372,

Conservation Groups Win Lawsuit to Protect Gray Wolf in Great Lakes;
Court Orders Bush Administration to Retain Protections for
Wolves Under Endangered Species Act  

WASHINGTON— Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today ordered the Bush administration to retain protection for gray wolves in the Great Lakes area under the Endangered Species Act.

“This is a tremendous victory for gray wolves, which have been hunted and persecuted to the brink of extinction in the lower 48 states and have only started to recover across their historic range,” said Amy Atwood, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The victory is also another win against the efforts of the Bush administration to drastically limit the protections of the Endangered Species Act.”

The Court’s order and accompanying opinion were issued in response to a lawsuit brought by conservationists challenging the Bush administration’s effort to unlawfully apply the Endangered Species Act to the status of gray wolves. The Center filed a brief in the case that concerned a 2007 rule by the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves in the Great Lakes region from the threatened species list. The ruling comes a few months after Judge Donald Molloy of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana halted the Bush administration’s attempt to remove gray wolves in the northern Rockies from the endangered species list in response to a separate lawsuit in which the Center is a plaintiff.

Although the gray wolf once ranged throughout much of the lower 48 states and is entitled under the Endangered Species Act to recover throughout its historic range, in the Great Lakes and northern Rockies regions — where gray wolves have recovered to some degree — the Fish and Wildlife Service created and delisted a “distinct population segment” of gray wolves in each of those regions. The agency attempted to draw a circle around wolves in the Great Lakes and northern Rockies and remove their protection. In so doing, Fish and Wildlife attempted to abandon protection and recovery for wolves throughout the majority of their range in the lower 48 United States.

“The Bush administration’s repeated attempts to push the limits of the Endangered Species Act have been decidedly rejected by the Courts,” Atwood said. “This is a great day for all endangered species.”

The case, Humane Society of the U.S., et al. v. Kempthorne, et al., Civ. No. 07-00677 (D.D.C.), is before Judge Paul L. Friedman of the D.C. District Court. Other plaintiffs include the Animal Protection Institute, Help Our Wolves Live, and Friends of Animals and Their Environment.


Gray wolves are the largest wild members of the Canidae, or dog family, with adults ranging from 40 to 175 pounds, depending upon sex and subspecies. The 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 12. Packs 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 primarily are predators of medium-sized and large mammals. Wild prey species in North America include white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, caribou, bison, musk ox, 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 and the United States and Alaska to southern Mexico (with limited geographic exceptions). Wolves coexisted with American Indian nations, but European settlers persecuted wolves 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 the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 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, it has only listed 58 species, compared to 522 under Clinton and 231 under George H.W. Bush. George W. Bush’s administration has not listed a single species in nearly 18 months. In August 2007, the Center marked this record of inaction by presenting Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne the Rubber Dodo Award. The Center gives the award annually to a deserving person in public or private service who has done the most to drive endangered species extinct.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with more than 180,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


Go back