NRDC Files Lawsuit to Protect Endangered Gray Wolf

WASHINGTON – NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today, for its unlawful removal of gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list. The lawsuit asks the court to throw out the USFWS’s decision to remove gray wolves from the ESA list and reinstate federal protections. 

“We had no other option but to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its missteps in removing gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act,” said Sylvia Fallon, Senior Director of Wildlife at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “We urged the last Administration to maintain federal protection for wolves and to implement a national wolf recovery plan. Instead, they removed protections that are critical to the future of the species at a time when they are still missing from much of their original habitat, and as the planet faces a biodiversity crisis that threatens the fate of humanity.” 

In 2019, the USFWS announced its second proposal in five years to strip gray wolves of Endangered Species Act protections in the Lower 48 states. Late last year, it finalized the rule, eliminating protections for gray wolves with the exception of Mexican wolves in the Southwest. Gray wolves once roamed nearly all of the continental United States, but the wolf’s perceived threat to livestock and to humans made the creature a perpetual target. By the middle of the 20th century, wolves significantly declined from most states with the help of federally funded extermination programs.  

Wolves remain endangered throughout significant portions of their range and delisting gray wolves prematurely prevents their nationwide recovery. Federal protections for wolves should remain in place until wolves have recovered in areas such as the Central Rockies, along 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 from each population group, instead of addressing wolf recovery throughout the entire continental United States.  

Earlier this month, environmental advocates filed two lawsuits against the Trump Administration’s decision to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act. These cases – represented by attorneys with Earthjustice and Western Environmental Law Center – describe many of the same catastrophic flaws in the USFWS’s delisting analysis that are highlighted in today’s NRDC lawsuit.    

More Information on Gray Wolves:  
Blog: NRDC Sues Feds for Failure to Protect Gray Wolves During Biodiversity Crisis 
Fish and Wildlife Service Robs Gray Wolf of Endangered Species Protections  
Feds End Protections for Gray Wolves in Midst of Biodiversity Crisis  
A Bar Too Low: National Wolf Delisting 
Gray Wolf at Risk of Losing Endangered Species Act Protections  
Save Wolves Action Page

Additional Resources 
The loss of biodiversity and cultural diversity go hand-in-hand and wolves not only play an important ecological role, but also a significant cultural role for many, including Indigenous communities. For more information on Tribal opposition to the delisting please see the following:     

Global Indigenous Council Wolf Treaty    
Global Indigenous Council Letter Opposing Delisting   
Oneida Nation Letter Opposing Delisting   
Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Letter Opposing Delisting   
Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s association Letter Opposing Delisting    
Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission Comment Letter Opposing Delisting   
Rocky Mountain Tribal Leader Council Letter Opposing Delisting   
Native Justice Coalition Letter Opposing Delisting   


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 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, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC 


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