On Thursday, the Trump administration announced it would be removing the gray wolf from the list protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The wolves once faced extinction in the United States as a result of trapping, hunting and the destruction of their habitats and have been protected for more than 45 years.
The Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon and has been credited with saving the California condor, grizzly bear, norther gray wolf and more. The law has since increased to include the protection of more than 1,600 plan and animal species – thanks to this 99% of the ones placed on the list have not gone extinct.
In 1995, federal officials reintroduced gray wolves to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. Today, state wildlife agencies manage wolf populations in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and hunting of the species is permitted.
According to NPR, the once nearly extinct wolves during the mid-20th century, have now increased to a population over 6,000 and are largely clustered in the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western Great Lakes region.
In 2013, the Obama administration proposed to delist gray wolves claiming the animals were no longer at risk of extinction and should be managed by state and tribal governments. Earlier the wolves were removed from the protection list by both a Democrat and Republican senator in Montana and Idaho after having been pressed by sportsmen groups and farmers who claim the predatory animals were killing their livestock. And in Wyoming, the wolves have been delisted and relisted as lawsuits continue.
Scientists and conservationists have stated the move would jeopardize the recovery of the species, however U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt stated the decision to remove the protections had been based on a “successful recovery” according to scientific and commercial data.
The decision exempts Mexican gray wolves found in Arizona and New Mexico.
The Trump administration has been attempting to return the management of wild animals and protected wilderness back to the states while other lawmakers continue to weaken the Endangered Species Act which has included 15 species having been removed from the lists.
Both the Center for Biological Diversity and the Defenders of Wildlife have plans to sue the administration calling the move “premature and reckless.” Peer-reviewed commissions by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2019 found the proposal to remove the wolves from their protected status misrepresented the species’ progress.