On March 3rd, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that removed Wyoming’s wolves from the endangered species list and restored management of the species to where it belongs – with Wyoming State wildlife managers. The appellate court reversed a district court ruling that had invalidated the delisting of Wyoming’s wolves. The district court had decided (wrongly) that Wyoming’s regulatory mechanisms were inadequate to conserve its gray wolf population after delisting.
SCI, together with the NRA and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, participated in the case as intervenors – demonstrating to the court that the hunting community has a strong interest in wolf delisting, conservation and management.
In addition to reinstating the delisting of the wolves, the D.C. Circuit Court affirmed the parts of the district court’s ruling that upheld aspects of the delisting. The district court had properly determined that the delisting would not jeopardize genetic connectivity between Wyoming’s wolves and other wolf populations and that Wyoming’s predator management areas did not constitute a significant portion of the wolf’s range.
The appellate court’s opinion expressed several astute observations about the Endangered Species Act. It supported the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s position that the ESA “does not mandate that regulatory mechanisms exist to protect species from any conceivable impact” and that “the ESA does not require a regulation to address every ‘far-fetched what if scenario that opponents of delisting can imagine.” The Court also acknowledged the successes of Montana and Idaho in their post-delisting management of their wolf populations.
Wyoming’s wolves are not the only ones under scrutiny by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. A different panel of judges from the same court is now considering an appeal of a district court’s invalidation of the delisting of the Western Great Lakes wolves. Although the issues in the two cases are very different, hopefully SCI will enjoy a similar victory when the Court issues a ruling on those wolves’ fate.