WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 45 years after gray wolves were first listed as an endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is celebrating the success of their recovery thanks to decades of conservation action through the passion and dedication of employees, partners, and communities nationwide.
The gray wolf is an iconic species with vast cultural and historic significance. Unfortunately, by the early part of the 20th century, the enigmatic gray wolf had become a ghost across almost the entire landscape of the lower 48 states. But today, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Fish and Wildlife Service employees and partners — such as states, tribes, conservation organizations, and private landowners all working together — we can definitively say that this apex predator has recovered to healthy, stable numbers. The gray-wolf population in the lower 48 states is now estimated to be more than 6,000 wolves, greatly exceeding our recovery goals.
Removing all gray wolves from the list of endangered species (“Feds to delist wolves again,” Oct. 29) reflects President Donald Trump’s and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s commitment to common-sense conservation. Working collaboratively with our state and tribal partners, reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens on American citizens, and renewing the focus on species recovery has provided the the Fish and Wildlife Service with a balanced approach that has resulted in the delisting and downlisting of more species due to recovery than any other administration during its first four years. With the recovery of the gray wolf, we can now add it to our growing list of successes.
Since 2017, 13 species — and now the gray wolf — have fully recovered and no longer need to be listed under the Endangered Species Act’s List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Furthermore, another seven species are on the pathway to recovery, being downlisted from endangered to threatened. To provide context for this in looking at other administrations in their first term, the Obama administration recovered six species, the Bush administration recovered eight species, and the Clinton administration recovered nine species.
The Endangered Species Act’s implementation of regulations hadn’t been comprehensively updated since the act was passed some 40 years ago. In 2019, under the secretary of interior’s leadership, the Fish and Wildlife Service updated its Endangered Species Act regulations to improve the implementation of the law. These changes supported stronger on-the-ground conservation efforts, encouraged voluntary efforts by private landowners to conserve imperiled species, and provided greater legal certainty around Endangered Species Act determinations.
The service’s guidepost for the multi-year, public process was President Trump’s overarching effort to reduce regulatory burdens without sacrificing protections for the environment and wildlife: a true common-sense approach.
State and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for managing and protecting the delisted gray wolves in states where they occur. These are the experts, and they are critical partners to conserving wildlife across the country. I am confident their expertise and long-term commitment to the sustainable management of wolves will last far beyond the federal delisting of the gray wolf, ensuring the long-term survival and prosperity of the species.
The Fish and Wildlife Service had already delisted gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, where a healthy and sustainable population roams across Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and the eastern portions of Oregon and Washington. These states have managed this delisted population effectively and responsibly. Wolves have even expanded into western Oregon, western Washington, northern California, and, most recently, northwest Colorado.
The Western Great Lakes’ wolf population in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota is also strong and stable. These states have been key partners in wolf-recovery efforts and have made a commitment to continue important conservation activities. Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado are also committed to conserving wolves, as demonstrated by their development of management plans and laws protecting wolves.
As director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I’m responsible for ensuring that the service bases its decisions on the best available science and follows the rule of law. The final delisting determination for the gray wolf was based on sound science, a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated, and the ongoing commitment and proven track record of states and tribes to continue managing for healthy wolf populations once delisted. We will monitor the gray wolf for five years post-delisting to ensure the continued success of the species.
We remain committed to achieving the Endangered Species Act’s conservation goals and to improving the law’s implementation on behalf of all Americans. The recovery of the gray wolf marks yet another success for the act.
Aurelia Skipwith is director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.