Today a federal judge agreed to allow the federal government to withdraw their delisting proposal and reinstate endangered species protections to wolves in the northern Rockies. After evaluating the judge's injunction decision from July, the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided they were not likely to win their battle in court. Rather than drag out an unfruitful process, they requested a withdrawal of the delisting proposal so that they could try to re-craft it instead.
This action is a direct result of a lawsuit filed by NRDC and its partners and achieves our goal of securing protections for the wolves until they are truly restored and there are enforceable state plans in place to guarantee their long-term survival. Combined with another recent, but separate court decision that invalidated the wolf delisting in the Great Lakes region, these events highlight some flaws with the Service's attempts to recover wolves in the lower 48 states.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in this process is the fact that the Service never prepared a comprehensive recovery plan for the gray wolf as a species. Instead they focused on recovering disjointed, local populations of wolves in three areas - the Great Lakes, the northern Rocky Mountains and the Southwest - and have been trying to delist the populations while claiming recovery for the species.
That is why NRDC sent a petition to the Service asking them to officially prepare a national recovery plan for wolves in the US as required by the Endangered Species Act. Not only do we need a coordinated, national vision for wolf recovery, but the regional plans of 20-30 years ago need to be updated. These recent court decisions present a tremendous opportunity to do just that. The Service now has a chance not only to rethink wolf recovery, but to get it right.