December 18, 2018

New brief: PLF challenges gray wolf ‘endangered’ listing in California

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

A single sighting of a wolf that had crossed over into California from Oregon—that’s all it took for Golden State bureaucrats to declare the gray wolf as a protected species under the state’s Endangered Species Act (ESA). That ill-fated decision has significant implications for farmers, ranchers and other property owners in California.

Yesterday, we filed our final merits brief in California Cattlemen’s Association v. California Fish & Game Commission, challenging the listing of the gray wolf as an endangered species under the California ESA. The brief re-emphasizes our three main arguments against the wolf’s listing.

  • First, the listing is based on the presence within the state of a single wolf that is not native to California. That’s problematic because, unlike the federal ESA, the current California ESA of 1984 protects only “native species or subspecies.”
  • Second, the listing is based just on the wolf’s status in California only, but the California ESA requires the listing analysis to be focused on the species’ “range” without qualification.
  • Finally, the listing is founded upon the intermittent presence of a single gray wolf (who subsequently left the state and settled down in Oregon). Such passing, vagrant presence in the state is insufficient as a matter of law to establish a listable “range.”

Our hearing is next month in San Diego Superior Court.


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California Cattlemen’s Association v. California Fish and Game Commission

Based on the sighting of a lone non-native gray wolf in California, the state Fish and Game Commission listed the gray wolf species under the California Endangered Species Act, effective January 1, 2017. On behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and their members, PLF sued to invalidate this illegal listing, which protects a non-native species at the expense of native species, ignores the growing wolf populations outside California, and upends a multi-year collaborative process among government, environmental, and ranching interests to balance wolf protection with livestock protection. 

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