June 29, 2009
Settlement Restores Endangered Species Act Protections To Great Lakes Wolves
WASHINGTON — In a victory for the gray wolf, a coalition of wolf advocates led by The Humane Society of the United States has reached a settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region, including the states of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The settlement comes in response to a motion filed by The HSUS, the Center for Biological Diversity, Help Our Wolves Live, Friends of Animals and Their Environment and Born Free USA. The motion sought an immediate injunction to halt the killing of wolves pending resolution of the case, which the groups filed two weeks ago.
This is the sixth time in the last five years that a federal government decision to strip wolves of Endangered Species Act protections has been stopped through legal action, but the settlement does not prevent the administration from making another attempt to de-list wolves and turn their fate over to state killing plans.
"We applaud the Obama administration for restoring federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes," said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation with The HSUS. "This agreement will give the administration a much-needed opportunity to reconsider the failed wolf-management policies of the past, and hopefully put to rest the states' reckless plans to start sport hunting and trapping imperiled wolves."
The suit challenged the federal government's decision to remove all Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region – a decision that would have allowed hostile state wildlife agencies to subject the wolves to widespread and indiscriminate killings at the hands of state agents, farmers and trophy hunters. Some of the state management plans allow a nearly 50 percent reduction of the region's wolf population.
"Poaching and persecution remain severe threats to wolves in the upper Midwest and elsewhere," said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Wolf recovery has made tremendous strides, but with wolves occupying roughly five percent of their historic range, the job is not yet finished."
Last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources intends to implement sport hunting and trapping seasons for wolves if they are ever successfully stripped of federal Endangered Species Act protection. The management plans for Minnesota and Michigan also allow for the establishment of future recreational hunting and trapping of wolves.
"The court's decision is great news for wolves and for the integrity of science in government decision-making," said Nicole Paquette, senior vice president of Born Free USA. "We hope that the Fish and Wildlife Service will honestly assess the scientific information it previously refused to review."
The plaintiffs are represented pro bono by the law firm Faegre & Benson. The settlement will be submitted to the federal district court for the District of Columbia today for final approval.
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 works to alleviate captive animal suffering, rescue individual animals, protect wildlife — including highly endangered species — in their natural habitats, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at bornfreeusa.org.