by Mark Chesnut - Friday, September 3, 2021
Despite missteps involving the Second Amendment, the economy, the COVID-19 crisis, and the withdrawal of U.S troops from Afghanistan, the Biden Administration got one right when it stood by President Donald Trump’s decision to lift Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves.
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the threatened species list in 2020, placing their management back in the hands of state wildlife agencies—right where it belongs. At the time of the delisting, then Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said, “Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law.”
Now, amid federal lawsuits filed by those seeking to restore the wolves’ protections, on Aug. 20 the Biden administration came down in opposition to the plaintiffs, including Defenders of Wildlife, WildEarth Guardians, and the National Resources Defense Council. On Aug. 20, Biden administration attorneys asked the judge presiding over the case in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California to reject the lawsuit.
“This case should turn on the proper interpretation and application of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), not policy preferences on who should manage wolves,” the administration wrote. “Congress already answered that question: States and Tribes manage their resident wildlife, unless a species, subspecies or distinct population segment is threatened or endangered. The [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service here concluded that the listed gray wolf entities in the lower 48 states were neither a separate protectable species nor, based on the scientific evidence, threatened or endangered within the meaning of the ESA.”
In the filing, the Biden administration concluded that relisting the species would be inappropriate under current law—just as the Trump administration argued last year.
“Under these circumstances, the ESA does not allow continued federal management of gray wolves in the lower 48 United States,” the filing concluded. “The Delisting Rule constitutes a reasoned application of the [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service’s authority under the ESA and is supported by the administrative record. The Court therefore should uphold the 2020 Rule and grant the Service’s summary judgment motion.”
Of course, anti-hunting groups were both shocked and angered by the administration’s stance on the issue.
“The Biden administration has betrayed its duty to protect and recover wolves,” said Kristen Boyles, attorney at Earthjustice, in a news release it issued on Aug. 20. “The Fish and Wildlife Service has the power to stop the immoral killing of wolves right now, and its refusal to act violates the law and the best science, as well as its treaty obligations to tribal nations.”
The actual goal of the Endangered Species Act is to recover threatened and endangered species and bring their populations back up to the point where they can be taken off the list and managed by state fish and game agencies. Unfortunately, far left anti-hunting groups would prefer species like the wolf stay on the list in perpetuity so it can’t be managed or hunted. They don’t want successful recovery of species; they want federal control.
The National Rifle Association has been involved in the wolf debate on behalf of hunters for nearly two decades. Over that long span, its NRA Institute for Legislative Action has been working to ensure that sound wildlife management practices implemented by the states—and not federal politics—govern the control of U.S. wolf populations. Most recently, as covered by the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website, NRA-ILA and Safari Club International were granted intervention in the court cases where anti-hunters are pushing to sidestep wildlife science and relist the species.
As Erica Tergeson, senior advisor for NRA-ILA, said back in April, “It is high time wolf management was taken from the federal government and returned to the states. The federal cookie cutter approach does not take into consideration the unique needs of states. Wolf populations have increased exponentially and need to be held in check to protect livestock, humans and other wildlife.”
About the Author
Freelance writer Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC in Jenks, Okla. An avid hunter, shooter and field-trialer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for over 20 years, previously serving as editor of the NRA’s America’s First Freedom.
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