Trump Administration Rolls Back Protections on Gray Wolf Despite Concerns from Environmentalists

Gray Wolf Photo Source: Adobe Stock Image

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, announced the delisting of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on October 29, 2020. After 45 years of being classified as an endangered species, the Trump Administration has announced the successful restoration of the species that dominates the lower half of the United States.

The gray wolf is native to 48 states in America, but throughout the 20th century, the scarcity of the gray wolf only increased. Through different partnerships between states, tribes, several conservation groups, and landowners, gray wolves were provided protections to help repopulate the species.

The recovery efforts have repopulated areas spanning the lower 48 states to more than 6,000 wolves. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declares that this growth exceeds the combined recovery goals established for the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountain populations.

Through the protections established by the ESA, the gray wolves have expanded, with a majority of the population being scattered through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The expansion of the gray wolf is due in part to growing population sizes because of the ESA’s protections.

Why Have the Gray Wolves Been Delisted?

According to a news release issued by the Department of Interior, the delisting comes after a close look at the current scientific and commercial data available. The Department of Interior explains that the delisting comes after the success of the states and tribes' efforts in managing population growth. These appear to be the main factors taken into consideration by the Trump Administration to deem the gray wolf worthy of being removed from the endangered species list.

When the ruling was officially published on March 14, 2019, there were over 170,000 public comments supporting and praising the protection rollbacks. Many proponents of the ruling were conservative representatives and supporters from states that had growing gray wolf populations.

The delisting of the species, however, does not mean that they will no longer be monitored. Rather, the responsibility, protection, and management of the species will now be in the hands of state and tribal agencies. The FWS will also play a key role in the delisting process as the FWS will monitor population growth until the year 2025.

A Rise in Delisting under Recent Administrations

The delisting of the gray wolf follows a string of delistings by the current administration. The Trump administration has delisted a total of 13 species, not including the gray wolf, from the ESA's list of endangered and threatened wildlife. This move represents the largest recovery of endangered species under any administration in our nation's history.

Under the Obama Administration, only six species were determined to have fully recovered, while the Bush administration helped delist seven species.

Environmentalist Are Wary of Delisting the Gray Wolf

While the repopulation of an endangered species is undoubtedly news to celebrate, many environmentalists point to troubling concerns about the protection rollbacks.

Organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane

Society Veterinary Medical Association argue that while the gray wolf populations have grown, their numbers are not stable enough to continue that growth with state and local government management alone.

Environmentalists point to several factors that the Trump administration is overlooking with rollbacks in federal regulation. These factors include gaps in conservation coverage, the threat of climate change, and changing ecosystems due to natural causes and increased private and public infrastructure.

Experts who oppose the rollback in protections have expressed their concerns in the American Institute of Biological Sciences October issue of its BioScience Journal. It is not clear what other actions will be pursued by environmentalists and other groups opposed to the delisting.

The final rule issued by the Department of the Interior was published in the Federal Register on November 3, 2020, and will go into effect on January 4, 2021.

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate from James Madison University, where she studied English and Education. Residing in Central Virginia with her husband and two young daughters, she balances her workaholic tendencies with a passion for travel, exploring the world with her family.
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