Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation Files Brief in Lower 48 Wolf Delisting Case

Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (SAF), along with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association and the Michigan Bear Hunters Association, have filed an Amicus brief in the case of animal-rights activists suing to reverse the Trump-era delisting of wolves from Endangered Species Act protections throughout the Lower 48 states.

In 2020 SAF, along with conservationists around the country, commended the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for once again following the science and removing gray wolves from the endangered species list. Like clockwork, Defenders of Wildlife and other anti-hunting and animal-rights activists returned to their playbook and sued the FWS to overturn the delisting once again. As in the past, the activists are opposing the same science that they often use to push and support their own agenda – but only when it suits their needs.

The latest delisting effort would cover all wolves in the Lower 48, except for small populations of one subspecies (Mexican wolves in the Southwest) and one separate wolf species (red wolves in North Carolina). Wolves in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and parts of surrounding states, were previously delisted by an act of Congress. Unless the delisting is overturned by the court, states, and not the federal government, will manage wolves, and wolf protections will vary based on the management plans of each state.

For over a decade, SAF has been a leading advocate both in litigation to defend wolf delisting decisions, and through legal petitions and comments to the agency. SAF has long sought the delisting of recovered wolves and returning management of the species back to the individual states. From 2014 to 2017, SAF participated in landmark litigation to remove wolves in the Western Great Lakes area from their protected status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) based on scientific facts that their recovery numbers far exceeded the threshold for delisting. Even though there was overwhelming evidence that their numbers not only recovered, but that the population was thriving, anti-hunting and animal-rights groups sued to block the delisting. The battle that ensued was over one major issue: can the FWS delist segmented populations of wolves after that distinct population recovers, or must every population recover before they can delist the species?

After years of battling in the courts, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with SAF that FWS has the authority to delist a species in regions where it has recovered, such as the Western Great Lakes, even if the species has not recovered elsewhere. Unfortunately, the court vacated the delisting and sent the matter back to FWS to make additional findings before delisting the Western Great Lakes wolves.

Because the federal court agreed with SAF on this important distinction, it is now the foundation of the current argument by FWS to delist wolves in the Lower 48. The current science overwhelmingly proves that wolves have not only recovered in these regions, but have far exceeded the delisting threshold numbers. These facts cannot be disputed and management of wolves must be returned to the individual states.

“SAF and our partners have been down this road many times before and have been at this for over a decade,” said Evan Heusinkveld President and CEO of Sportsmen’s Alliance. “We are once again hopeful that the courts will respect the science and the fact that recovery numbers have far exceeded their goals, and not only delist the gray wolf, but put an end to the activists’ frivolous and costly charade.”

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: Online, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.