Court restores protections for gray wolves across much of U.S.

A gray wolf.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Dawn Villella, file)

A federal judge on Thursday restored protections for gray wolves in most of the United States, reversing a Trump-era decision.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White in Northern California ruled that the protections will be put back in place in most of the lower 48 states, and federal officials will be in charge of managing wolf populations in the Great Lakes region and Pacific coast.

Toward the end of the Trump administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the list of endangered species. White wrote the agency did not use the best science available when making this decision and "failed to adequately consider the threats to wolves outside of the core populations in the Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountains in delisting the entire species."

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Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are not part of the court case, and increased hunting in those states threatens gray wolves, environmental groups say. "We need the Biden administration to emergency-list the wolves in that area, the northern Rockies," Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark told The Washington Post. "Because the states are just no holds barred, the states are just clearly not doing right by the wolves."

Gray wolves were almost entirely wiped out by hunters in the early 1900s, and environmental groups are concerned about their future. In Montana, restrictions on hunting were eased last year, with state fish and game commissioners ending wolf-hunting quotas north of Yellowstone. In the last several months, more than 20 wolves have been killed leaving the park, and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland wrote in a USA Today editorial earlier this week that her department was "alarmed" by this.

"[We] have communicated to state officials that these kinds of actions jeopardize the decades of federal and state partnerships that successfully recovered gray wolves in the northern Rockies," Haaland wrote.

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