Court rules to lift federal protections for Wyoming wolves

Published: Mar. 3, 2017 at 11:55 AM CST
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An appeals court has lifted federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming.

Friday's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reverses a lower judge who sided with environmental groups and rejected Wyoming's wolf management plan.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed in 2011 that gray wolves are no longer a threatened species in Wyoming.

State officials promised to maintain a population above the minimum 100 wolves, including 10 breeding pairs, outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation.

But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman ruled in 2014 that the state's promise was unenforceable and rejected its wolf management plan.

“I am pleased with today’s ruling. The Court recognized Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan was appropriate. We look forward to state management once the 2012 delisting rule is formally reinstated,” said Governor Mead. “I thank everyone who has worked so hard for the recovery and delisting of wolves. This is the right decision for wolves and Wyoming.”

State officials will notify the public once the 2012 delisting rule is officially reinstated and once Wyoming is operating under its wolf management plan.

In its reversal, the appellate court ruled federal officials exercised proper judgment and adequately responded to concerns about Wyoming's management plan.

“This ruling is a win for Wyoming and all those who have worked so hard to return management of the gray wolf to the state,” U.S Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said. “The state of Wyoming has been working on this issue with local stakeholders and the federal government for years and the courts should have never blocked the delisting in the first place. While I am hopeful that this decision is the end of the battle, I will continue to working to ensure that management will stay in the hands of the state.”

"The state of Wyoming has put together a working plan to protect the state’s wolf population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the gray wolf has recovered enough to be delisted in the state,” U.S Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said. “I am pleased that the court agrees that the wolf has recovered enough to be removed from the endangered species list. As a result of this ruling, the state’s wolves will be under the control of Wyoming, not Washington."

“The DC Circuit Court of Appeals righted a wrong for Wyoming today,” U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said. “This ruling nullifies the lower court's decision to re-list the gray wolf based on a technicality, and re-affirms Wyoming's authority to manage our gray wolf population. While this ruling is welcome news to Wyoming, the long and drawn out process has highlighted why Endangered Species Act reforms are so badly needed. Sound science, not the courts, should decide when a species is recovered. This ruling will again put the process of managing the gray wolf back where it belongs - in Wyoming's capable hands.”