Gray Wolves Relisted Under Endangered Species Act

Judge Reinstates Federal Protections Removed During Trump Administration

SAN FRANCISCO A U.S. District Court today restored Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves, siding with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and its partners after the organizations filed lawsuits in January 2021 over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) unlawful removal of gray wolves from the list of endangered and threatened species. The decision restores federal protections for wolves outside the Northern Rockies that had been taken away by the Trump Administration. 

The following is a quote from Dr. Sylvia Fallon, Senior Director of Wildlife at NRDC:

“This is a great win for wolves as the courts, once again, side with science over politics.”  

"The Service has sought every legal loophole they could find to avoid putting forward a national plan to recover the species, and they have been slapped down repeatedly. It is well past time for the Service to do what it was required by law to do from the start and develop a science-based plan to recover one of the most iconic species in North America.

“This decision restores critical protections for wolves across much of the country. But in the Northern Rockies, wolves continue to be targeted by aggressive state hunting and trapping regulations. The Service should step in with protections for all wolves across the Lower-48 while developing a plan to ensure the long-term survival of this species." 


In January of 2021, conservation groups filed multiple lawsuits against the Trump Administration’s decision to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act. These cases—represented by attorneys with Earthjustice, the Western Environmental Law Center, and NRDC—highlight catastrophic flaws in the USFWS’s delisting analysis. 

Wolves remain endangered throughout significant portions of their range and delisting gray wolves prematurely prevents their nationwide recovery. Federal protections for wolves should remain until wolves have recovered in areas such as the Central Rockies, the Pacific Coast, and the Northeast, where there is still significant suitable habitat, but where wolf populations remain low. 

The federal government recognized the species as endangered in the 1970s, but it failed to complete a national recovery plan as required under the Endangered Species Act. Gray wolf advocates have repeatedly petitioned the USFWS to develop a recovery plan, but the agency has instead focused on recovering isolated populations of wolves. Once those populations began to recover, the USFWS tried to remove ESA protections based on progress in these limited areas, instead of addressing wolf recovery throughout the entire continental United States. 

More Information on Wolves: 

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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