Victory: Court orders Service to complete gray wolf status review


Author: Daniel Himebaugh

Today, the federal district court for the Eastern District of Washington entered an order approving a settlement agreement in Washington Cattlemen's Association v. Salazar.  In that case (which I blogged about here and here), PLF attorneys represented the Cattlemen in challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's failure to complete a statutorily mandated status review for the gray wolf.  In May, the Service announced that it would initiate the status review according to its new national gray wolf strategy.  Today's order requires the Service to complete its review by February 29, 2012.

The gray wolf has been listed as an endangered species throughout the lower 48 states since 1978, but the Service never conducted a status review for the wolf as the Endangered Species Act requires.  This is a consequential oversight.  Status reviews must be conducted every five years because, without current science, the Service cannot determine whether a species should remain listed as endangered, be reclassified as threatened, or removed from the endangered species list altogether.  Making sure the Service conducts status reviews is very important to people who are impacted by the gray wolf's status as an endangered species, and who count on the Service's species listings to be scientifically justifiable.

Today's settlement comes amidst a flurry of recent gray wolf activity.  In May, the Service announced its national gray wolf strategy, which includes undertaking the Cattlemen's requested status review.  Under the new strategy, the Service has already proposed to remove gray wolves in Minnesota from the endangered species list, and revise the gray wolf's range by recognizing that parts of 29 eastern states do not constitute the wolf's historic range.  Also in May, Congress directed the Service to re-issue a 2009 rule delisting the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains, since wolf populations in the mountain states have far exceeded recovery goals.

We will continue to monitor the Service's gray wolf activities, and we await the results of the forthcoming status review.