by Mark Chesnut - Thursday, May 5, 2022
The ongoing saga to properly manage gray wolf populations continues, with the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) recently filing an appeal over a California court’s February decision to take management of the species out of the hands of scientists at the state level and turn management over to the federal government. That decision shut down states’ ability to manage wolves as well as every other species and prevented legal, regulated hunting from playing its intended role in wildlife management.
For some background, the battle over the management of gray wolves has been ongoing for 20 years, and the NRA has been at the forefront of the fight to have the species managed by the states, which manage every other species. In early 2020, under the Trump administration, the Department of Interior’s (DOI) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) removed gray wolves in the Lower 48 from Endangered Species Act protections, placing management back into the hands of the states where the wolves reside. Of course, those against hunting immediately sued.
As this website tracked, despite efforts by the NRA and other hunter-backed organizations, animal rights extremist groups pushed forward with lawsuits trying to put the species back on the endangered list. While the NRA and Safari Club International (SCI) intervened in April 2021, the move ultimately culminated in the February court ruling. Sidestepping scientific facts, U. S. District Judge Jeffery White said the USFWS has not shown that wolf populations can be sustained in the Midwest and parts of the West without protection under the ESA. (The ruling did not apply to wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where populations remain under state management, or in New Mexico, where wolves are already protected.)
“The NRA is disappointed with the court’s ruling to restore federal protections for long-since-recovered gray wolf populations and will continue fighting to see the species’ management returned to the states where it belongs,” Michael Jean, director of the Office of Litigation Counsel for NRA-ILA, said following that ruling. “Though wildlife biologists and other wildlife management professionals declared the gray wolf to be recovered for over a decade—a move that should have been celebrated—courts have ignored the fact that wolf populations have exceeded recovery goals and keep relisting the species.”
The NRA’s April 11 appeal showcases its commitment to continuing the fight and follows NRA-ILA’s joining with Safari Club International (SCI) and 22 other organizations under the American Wildlife Conservation Partners umbrella to sign onto a February letter requesting that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service appeal the California court’s decision. In the letter, addressed to DOI Secretary Deb Haaland, the organizations respectfully requested that the USFWS appeal the Feb. 10 decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that vacated the 2020 rule removing the gray wolf from federal ESA protections. In addition, the sign-on letter outlined how wolf populations represented an ESA success story, pointing to how the recovered species should be managed just like any other wildlife species.
The letter also noted a key scientific fact: Wolves have greatly expanded their numbers and range in their primary habitat, adding that the wolves’ recovery has impelled the USFWS’s repeated efforts to remove gray wolves from the ESA lists.
NRA-ILA is committed to ensuring that hunters continue to play a vital role and have a voice in the management and conservation of America’s wildlife. Relisting a recovered species like gray wolves based on emotion and politics only harms the species and damages scientific wildlife management. While it’s evident that the fight over the management of gray wolves won’t end anytime soon, the NRA will continue to work on the side of hunters and wildlife managers to force the federal government to do the right thing as far as wolf management is concerned.
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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