SCI Appeals Western Great Lakes Wolf Ruling
Safari Club International has taken the next step in the battle over the status and management of the wolves of the Western Great Lakes (WGL). Last December, a D.C. federal district court judge ruled that the federal government illegally delisted the WGL wolves. The ruling returned those wolves to endangered status. Safari Club International, along with several other conservation groups, has appealed that ruling. The federal government also appealed, as did the States of Wisconsin and Michigan.
SCI has appealed the ruling, not simply because it returned the WGL wolves to endangered status, but also because the judge held that once the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) lists a species, the FWS lacks authority to delist any recovered portion of that species. Because the FWS originally listed gray wolves as a species, throughout the lower 48 states, the court held that the FWS lacked the authority to delist only a segment of those wolves. If the ruling remains viable, it could have an impact on species other than wolves. The court’s interpretation of the Endangered Species Act could have significant adverse impacts on current and future listing and delisting efforts for species such as grizzly bears, sage grouse, African lions, and others.
Congress has taken notice of the district court’s ruling. Several bills have been introduced to address the problems caused by the ruling and to return the WGL to delisted status. One such bill will require the FWS to reinstate the rule that delisted the WGL wolves and another rule that delisted Wyoming’s wolves. This proposed legislation is very similar to a law Congress previously adopted that directed the delisting of wolves in Montana and Idaho. If such a bill is enacted, SCI will evaluate its litigation options to limit the impact of the lower court’s ruling on other delisting efforts.
SCI is joined in the appeal by U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, the National Rifle Association, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, the Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association, the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.