12:35 AM

Members of Congress Attempt to Remove Protections for Gray Wolves


Contact: Jennifer Witherspoon, 202-772-0269, jwitherspoon@defenders.org

WASHINGTON (January 11, 2017) – U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (WY-Al) introduced a bill in Congress on Jan. 10 to permanently remove gray wolves from the endangered species list and prevent the delisting from being subject to judicial review and lawsuits. Cheney was joined by Congressmen Collin C. Peterson (MN-7) and Sean Duffy (WI-07) in co-sponsoring the legislation that would permanently delist wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes region.

The following is a statement from Defenders of Wildlife CEO and President Jamie Rappaport Clark:

“There they go again. Some members of Congress choose to ignore science and the law and instead want to manage wildlife recovery in the U.S. by legislative fiat. We’ve been down this road before. In 2012, Defenders and several other conservation groups challenged the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist gray wolves in Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act and we won. Wyoming’s wolf management plan was not protective enough to recover gray wolves and would have allowed for wolves to be killed on sight across 85 percent of the state. This is not a responsible approach to management of an imperiled species.

“An attempt to delist wolves through Congressional legislation is not a scientific or thoughtful approach. It could open the floodgates to endless proposals to delist endangered species based on politics, not on science, undermining the integrity of the Endangered Species Act and our ability to protect and recover our nation’s imperiled wildlife.”


In 2011, Congress took unprecedented action to delist wolves in Idaho, Montana, a small section of northern Utah, and the eastern portion of Washington and Oregon. Aggressive wolf killing programs have since been implemented in Idaho and Montana.

In October 2012, Defenders and several other conservation groups challenged the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist gray wolves in Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act. Defenders’ principal concern was with Wyoming’s wolf management plan, which classifies wolves as predators that can be killed at any time, for any reason in about 85 percent of the state.

Federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming were reinstated on September 23, 2014 after a judge invalidated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS’s) 2012 statewide Endangered Species Act (ESA) delisting of the species. In December 2014, a second federal judge overturned the FWS’s December 2011 decision to delist the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes region, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. In both instances, the courts ruled that the FWS had failed to comply with various provisions of current law.

There were once up to 2 million gray wolves living in North America, but the animals were driven to near-extinction in the lower 48 states by the early 1900s. After passage of the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973 and protection of the wolf as endangered, federal recovery programs resulted in the rebound of wolf populations in limited parts of the country. Biologists believe that more than 5,500 wolves currently live in the continental United States – a fraction of the species’ historic numbers.



Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.