Gray Wolves FTW

Photo by property#1, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/manager_2000/3748236297/">via Flickr</a>.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


A federal judge in the US district court in Montana ruled Thursday that the Rocky Mountain gray wolf should be returned to the endangered species list, overturning the Obama administration’s 2009 decision to delist the species in several Western states. The wolves, said the judge, “must be listed, or delisted, as a distinct population and protected accordingly.”

Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the April 2009 decision of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to “delist” gray wolves in Montana and Idaho, while keeping them protected in Wyoming, was a violation of the endangered species act. “The plain language of the ESA does not allow the agency to divide a [species] into a smaller taxonomy,” Molloy said.

In a statement, Tom Strickland, the assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, said that the agency believes the wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains no longer need protection. “Our collective efforts have brought this population to the point where it no longer requires Endangered Species Act protection,” said Strickland. But until Wyoming makes as much progress in restoring the wolf population, the wolves will remain protected throughout the region. “[I]n the days ahead we will work closely with Idaho and Montana to explore all appropriate options for managing wolves in those states,” he said.

Fish and Wildlife argued that the wolf population had been brought up to 1,500 and had made significant progress in those two states since they were first listed as endangered in 1974. Wyoming, however, had not succeeded in adequately restoring the species. The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, and other conservation groups sued the federal government over the wolf delisting last year, arguing that the state delineation was arbitrary.

While the ruling deals with a specific decision by the Obama administration regarding these wolves, it more broadly invalidates a policy adopted in the Bush era, which would have allowed for the protection of small divisions of an endangered species rather than the whole species. While “it may be a pragmatic solution to a difficult biological issue, it is not a legal one,” Molloy stated in his decision.

“The Obama administration should have known better than to adopt and defend the Bush administration’s anti-endangered species policies,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a victory for all wildlife, not just the wolf, because it forces the federal government to treat species as whole, rather then divide them into politically convenient pieces so it can strip them of protection.”

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.