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June 15, 2009

Wildlife Protection Groups Challenge Great Lakes Wolf Delisting

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — Today, five wildlife protection groups filed a complaint in federal District Court challenging the removal of Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region. The non-profit organizations — 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 — have also asked the court to issue an immediate injunction to halt the killing of wolves pending resolution of the case. 

In April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized an effort launched by the Bush administration to remove federal protections for this vulnerable species, in favor of allowing states to open sport hunting and trapping seasons.  Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan plan to allow hundreds of wolves to be killed.

This is the second time in little more than a year that the federal government has removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region, and the latest installment in an effort that has been repeatedly struck down by the courts over the last several years.

"After courts overturned the Fish and Wildlife Service's efforts to strip wolves of all federal protection six times in the last four years, it's shocking that we have to go back to court once again to enforce the requirements of the Endangered Species Act," said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation with The Humane Society of the United States. "It's long-past time for a sober policy review of this issue by the new administration."

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has once again removed protection for wolves before they have fully recovered," said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Wolves are absent from roughly 95 percent of their historic range and with removal of protection, there is almost no chance they will gain lost ground."    

"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. "The agency is acting in opposition to the interests of the vast majority of citizens that wolves be protected until they can thrive."

"If the Fish and Wildlife Service succeeds in its plans to remove federal protections from the gray wolf, there is little chance that this top predator — an iconic symbol of all that is wild and free — will be restored to its former range," said Nicole G. Paquette, senior vice president and general counsel 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 coalition of wildlife protection groups is represented pro bono by the law firm Faegre & Benson. The complaint and request for preliminary injunction were filed in the federal district court for the District of Columbia.

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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.

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