Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 17, 2018

Contact:  Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821,
Alison Shapiro, the Humane Society of the United States, (301) 721-6472,

Legal Petition Urges Trump Administration to Maintain Gray Wolf Protection

Proposal Offers New Path to National Wolf Recovery

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and the Humane Society of the United States today petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain protection for gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is considering stripping all federal protection from wolves, but the groups are proposing several alternatives, including reclassifying gray wolves from “endangered” to “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.

The petition aims to continue federal protection and funding of wolf-recovery efforts and encourage the Service to develop a national recovery plan for the species. It would also give the agency regulatory flexibility to permit state wildlife managers to address specific wolf conflicts.

“We’re offering a realistic, balanced path forward for nationwide wolf recovery,” said Collette Adkins, a Center attorney and scientist. “Our proposal replaces the failed piecemeal efforts of the past with a new science-based strategy that can work. If the Trump administration strips wolves of protection now, it’d be a huge mistake that would cripple their recovery.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service has signaled its intent to publish a proposed regulation to remove federal gray wolf protection, possibly as soon as the end of the calendar year.

Stripping away federal protection would allow states to open trophy hunting and trapping seasons on wolves. It would also halt wolf recovery in the Adirondacks, southern Rockies and other areas scientists have identified as suitable habitat. Wolves remain absent from approximately 90 percent of the places where they once lived.   

“This petition and recovery strategy is based on the best available science and sound legal grounds, rather than politics and fear,” said Anna Frostic, managing wildlife attorney for the Humane Society of the United States. “To date the Service has repeatedly caved to state pressure to remove federal protections and repeatedly been overturned in federal court — thus, we are proposing a middle ground on this controversial issue.”

The Endangered Species Act requires the Service to respond to today’s petition within 90 days.

Gray wolves are currently protected as endangered throughout their range in the lower 48 states, except in Minnesota, where they are listed as threatened. Wolves in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and eastern Washington have no Endangered Species Act protection. Today’s petition does not apply to the Mexican wolf, a subspecies of wolf separately protected as “endangered” under the Act, or to red wolves, a separate species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service stripped protection from gray wolves in the Great Lakes region in 2011, allowing trophy hunting and trapping seasons in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The courts restored protection in 2014 following a lawsuit brought by the Humane Society of the United States.

Wolf numbers have increased substantially where the Endangered Species Act has been implemented, but recovery is still not complete. On Nov. 14 the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Service for violating the Endangered Species Act by never providing a comprehensive recovery plan for gray wolves nationwide.

The November lawsuit and today’s petition call for a national wolf recovery plan. A national plan would enable wolves to establish viable populations in areas where small populations are still recovering, including California, Oregon and Washington. It would also promote recovery in areas like the southern Rockies, Dakotas and Adirondacks, which have suitable wolf habitat but no wolf populations.


Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Humane Society of the United States is the most effective animal protection organization, as rated by our peers. For more than 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We and our affiliates are the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 100,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read about our more than 60 years of transformational change for animals and people.

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