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Court keeps Great Lakes wolves on endangered species list

Court keeps Great Lakes wolves on endangered species list

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrongly removed Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states, a decision that protects more than 3,000 wolves and ensures hundreds there will not be killed each year.

The court upheld a district judge who overruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which had determined that wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin had recovered after being shot, trapped and poisoned almost out of existence in the previous century. They now total about 3,800. U.S. Judge Beryl A. Howell struck down the plan three years later.

"Because the government failed to reasonably analyze or consider two significant aspects of the rule - we affirm the judgment of the district court vacating the 2011 Rule", the appeals court said in its 54-page decision released Tuesday. A spokesman with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said agency officials had hoped the federal appeals court would return management to the states.

Regulators in 2011 delisted the gray wolf in Minnesota, Wisconsin and MI and parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and OH, arguing that the populations there were "significant" and that disease and humans did not pose a threat to the wolves. The Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced the predators into Yellowstone National Park in 1995.

Tuesday's court ruling takes a different approach than the same D.C. appellate court took in March, when it agreed that gray wolves in the state of Wyoming could be removed from the endangered list and come under management by the state.

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More information on the court's decision can be found here. "Wolves are still missing from more than 90 percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states, and both the Endangered Species Act and common sense tell us we can't ignore that loss".

"Congress should back off", said Howling for Wolves' Maureen Hackett. "We only wish we could say the same of farms and ranches within their reach".

This court decision is the latest legal move in a long back and forth over wolf management in Minnesota.

Those who oppose federal protections for the gray wolf argue the population has recovered.

Rep. Sean Duffy, a Wisconsin Republican, urged the Trump administration to appeal the court ruling.

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"This decision reaffirms what we know: the wolf is a vulnerable and valuable species and needs federal protections for their long-term survival".

Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle said Congress and wildlife regulators should "recognize that wolves provide an enormous range of ecological and economic services to the regions where they live, and they do it for free". They are a firewall against chronic wasting disease.

Conservationists applauded Tuesday's ruling and called for more protections.

They remained on the endangered species list until 2012, then came under state management, only to be returned to the federal endangered species list in 2014, following a lawsuit by environmental groups.

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