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April 2, 2009

Wildlife Groups to Challenge Removal of Great Lakes Wolves from Endangered Species Act

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — A coalition of wildlife protection groups — including The Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, Help Our Wolves Live, Friends of Animals and Their Environment and Born Free USA — announced Thursday that they will challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recent decision to remove the protections of the Endangered Species Act from gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region. The Fish and Wildlife Service's decision reinstates a Bush administration policy that has been repeatedly struck down by the courts over the last decade.

"After being rebuffed by the courts six times in three and a half years, we had hoped the Fish and Wildlife Service would have learned its lesson by now, and refocus its efforts on developing more constructive wildlife protection policies," said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation with The HSUS.

"The wolf once roamed nearly the entire United States and portions of Mexico," said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Removing protections for the wolf in the small fraction of its range where it still survives all but ensures that these beautiful and intelligent animals will never roam the many areas in their historic range where they could still thrive, including the northeastern U.S."

"Once again it is premature to delist the wolf. The Great Lakes states must produce sound ecological management plans, based upon preservation of biodiversity, environmental ethics, and responsible stewardship towards this national treasure, the wolf," said Linda Hatfield, executive director of Help Our Wolves Live. "To date there has not been sound biological/empirical support for delisting, and human-caused mortality remains a major threat to wolves." 

"We are challenging this rule because the Fish and Wildlife Service has not completed its mission to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf," stated Bob Waligora, issues coordinator for Friends of Animals and Their Environment.

"If the Fish and Wildlife Service succeeds in its scheme to prematurely remove federal protections from the gray wolf, there will be little prospect of restoring this top predator to additional ecosystems," said Nicole G. Paquette, senior vice president of Born Free USA.

Now that the gray wolf has been removed from federal protection, wolves will be subjected to widespread killings at the hands of hostile state wildlife agencies and trophy hunters, as management plans from the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan allow nearly a 50 percent reduction in the region's wolf population. 

The groups, represented by the law firm Faegre & Benson, have filed today a 60-day notice of their intent to sue over the rule — as required under the Endangered Species Act. If the agency does not reconsider the delisting rule over the next 60 days, the wildlife protection groups will again ask a federal court to reinstate federal ESA protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region. 

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit organization dedicated to securing a future for all species hovering on the brink of extinction. More information is available at biologicaldiversity.org.

Help Our Wolves Live is a Minnesota nonprofit organization, dedicated to the protection and preservation of the gray wolf, lynx, and other endangered or threatened predator species. HOWL has over 200 members, many of whom live in the State of Minnesota.

Friends of Animals and Their Environment is a Minnesota nonprofit organization committed to the protection of animals and the ecosystems on which they depend. FATE has approximately 200 members and supporters who regularly advocate on behalf of animals, and in particular wolves. 

Born Free USA is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the US and globally. More information is available at bornfreeusa.org.

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