Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would not be relisting wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains under the Endangered Species Act, after the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately restore federal protections to these wolves. Without that protection, state laws enable trophy hunters, trappers and predator control agents to push the wolves closer to extinction.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to stand by and do nothing while wolves in Northern Rockies states are pushed to the brink of extinction once again is reprehensible. The agency is essentially turning their backs on wolves,” said Nicholas Arrivo, managing attorney for wildlife at the Humane Society of the United States. “We stand ready to continue fighting for this critically important and valuable species.” 

Wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have faced ruthless hunting and trapping for years, following the removal of federal ESA protections for wolves in the region. However, in 2021 the situation in Idaho and Montana worsened when both states passed aggressive wolf-killing laws aimed at drastically reducing wolf populations in those states.

In September 2021, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that wolves may again warrant endangered species status and launched a review of the status of wolves in the region. In August 2022, the same coalition of organizations filed a new lawsuit challenging the federal government’s delay in making a final decision on the relisting petition. Today’s announcement by the Fish and Wildlife Service is the culmination of its status review. Without reinstated ESA protections, decades of taxpayer-funded wolf recovery efforts will be wasted.

Meanwhile, Idaho and Montana continue to ramp up their assault on wolves. In 2023, Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission approved a new wolf management plan aimed at slashing the state’s wolf population by 60% by 2028, primarily by expanding and incentivizing trophy hunting and trapping. Individual trophy hunters and trappers in Idaho can already kill an unlimited number of wolves through horrific means, including killing entire wolf families in their dens. Montana is also currently considering a new wolf management plan aimed at significantly reducing its wolf population and promoting trophy hunting and trapping. In both states, hunters and trappers can receive “reimbursements”—also known as bounties—for costs incurred killing wolves. 

“Gray wolves are iconic residents of the Rocky Mountains, and these beloved creatures deserve federal protections so they can thrive for generations to come,” said Gillian Lyons, director of regulatory affairs for Humane Society Legislative Fund. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has failed in its commitment to use sound science to protect endangered wildlife. Instead, the agency is continuing to pander to the trophy hunters, trappers and ranchers while ignoring the millions of Americans who value wolves and want them protected.”  

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