Gray Wolf Protection Removal Likely to See Court Challenge

Nov 3, 2020

Credit iStock/Minnesota News Connection

Last week's announcement by the Trump administration to end federal endangered species protections for gray wolves was met with resistance from some Minnesota leaders and conservation groups. One of those groups said the fight isn't over.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the animal's population has rebounded to the point that it no longer needs federal protections in the lower 48 states. When the move becomes final, those states will have control over management plans.

John Murtaugh, Rocky Mountain and Great Planes representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said wolf habitat is very limited right now, making it harder to expand, especially if hunts resume.

"This plan is considering the wolves recovered based on some flawed metrics," Murtaugh contended. "It doesn't recognize that wolves are only occupying a small fraction of their historic range. "

Murtaugh said his group and other conservation organizations will challenge the decision in court.

Gov. Tim Walz said he was disappointed in the decision, and the state Department of Natural Resources said while the wolf population has recovered in Minnesota, it suggests that a blanket delisting could create problems elsewhere.

However, some members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation say proper management will help wolves, along with hunters and livestock owners.

In promising a legal challenge, Murtaugh said they feel they have strong enough arguments and other opinions to potentially halt the decision.

"When they put this plan together, they had an independent science review board, and four of the five members of the independent review board were very critical of this decision," Murtaugh asserted.

But groups that represent hunters and livestock ranchers say wolves can be dangerous predators to animals that fall under their interest.

The federal government estimates the nation's current wolf population is around 6,000, with most of them in the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies regions.

Minnesota has more than 2,000 wolves based on the latest estimate.