What's At Stake
The gray wolf, an iconic apex predator species that once roamed most of the continental United States, is under attack.
When the gray wolf gained protections under the Endangered Species Act in 1974, the keystone predator had virtually vanished from all but one state. A century of hunting, trapping, and habitat loss had pushed it to near extinction in the Lower 48 states—an onslaught from which it is still recovering.
But lawmakers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) have been prematurely rolling back protections for wolves. In 2011, Congress delisted the gray wolf in Montana and Idaho, giving management authority to the states. Wolves in Wyoming were delisted in 2017; then in 2020, the FWS finalized a national rule eliminating protections for gray wolves across the rest of the country, with the exception of Mexican wolves in the Southwest. NRDC and our partners fought back, taking the FWS to court and helping galvanize people to send in more than one million public comments to oppose the scientifically flawed rule. And in February 2022, a judge decided that the FWS violated the Endangered Species Act—restoring federal protections nationally. But the court ruling does not apply to wolves in the Northern Rockies, which remain under threat from misguided and aggressive state policies. NRDC continues to fight for better management of Northern Rockies wolves.
Complicating the wolf’s recovery are livestock-predator conflicts, which can result in the lethal removal of a wolf—or even an entire pack. NRDC has partnered with ranchers and state and federal agencies like USDA APHIS Wildlife Services to implement proactive nonlethal measures, such as fladry (flags on electrified wire fencing) and riders on horseback, to keep both livestock and wolves alive.
Without healthy wolf populations, entire ecosystems can be thrown out of balance. As a keystone species, wolves have an outsize influence on other wildlife populations further down the food chain, with effects that ripple out to plant communities as well. Saving wolves means also saving fragile and complex ecosystems on which thousands of species rely—while also conserving an important piece of our national heritage.
Urge Sec. Haaland to restore protections to gray wolves in the Northern Rockies
Reporting, expert commentary, analysis, and more.
The Global Indigenous Council and tribal leaders have also raised their powerful voices to highlight the deep cultural connections Indigenous nations share with wolves in an appeal to Interior Secretary Haaland to restore protections to wolves.
The day NRDC and Wyoming Wildlife Services installed the turbo fladry fence on a ranch near Jackson, the killing of cattle—and wolves—stopped.