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Court rules in favor of gray wolf protections

District Court affirms lower court ruling.

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reaffirmed a lower court ruling on Aug. 1, 2017, that vacated a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule to remove protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

In its decision, the court wrote the agency's analysis:

  • Failed to address the effect on the remnant population of carving out the Western Great Lakes segment.
  • Misapplied the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's own tests.
  • Turned its back on the implications of historical range loss.

The Humane Society of the United States and a coalition of wildlife protection groups brought the suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's December 2011 delisting of the gray wolves in the western Great Lakes Region. The agency's decision was overturned by the district court in 2014, with the court saying the delisting threatened the population by confining the population to small pockets of its former range.

"A federal appeals court has recognized that the basis for the delisting decision was flawed," said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the HSUS. "Congress should respect the ruling relating to the management of wolves in the Great Lakes and allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to re-examine the broader conservation questions raised by the courts.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation, however, called on Congress to reform the "broken and outdated" Endangered Species Act.

“The court handed down this opinion despite an abundance of scientific and commercial data showing no material threat to the wolf population," said AFBF president Zippy Duvall. "Neither the goals outlined in various recovery plans nor the aggressive and successful leadership to save the wolves in affected states moved the court to do the right thing.

“There’s no question the wolf packs have recovered. We only wish we could say the same of farms and ranches within their reach," Duvall said in a media statement.

The court wrote that federal regulations permit depredation control in Minnesota, where most of the gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes segment are located.

A Wisconsin lawmaker also weighed in, denouncing the ruling.

“It’s outrageous that activist judges in Washington think they know what’s best for Wisconsin’s ecosystem,” said Sean Duffy in a statement. “Just because wolves might not appear as a problem at environmentalist galas in Washington, they are a very real concern to farmers and ranchers in Wisconsin. Our farmers deserve to be able to protect their livestock, and they should not suffer because of the decisions made by an overreaching federal government a thousand miles away. I urge the Department of the Interior to appeal this decision, and I will continue to fight for legislation that will delist the gray wolf."

Source: AFBF, HSUS, U.S. Court of Appeals, Rep. Duffy

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