In a controversial decision, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must return a population of wolves found in the western Great Lakes area to the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act.
The decision stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Humane Society of the United States; Born Free, USA; Help Our Wolves Live; and Friends of Animals and Their Environment.
It was opposed by a coalition that included Secretary of the Interior, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Joining the government in opposition was the Hunter Conservation Coalition, which is made up of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, Safari Club International, the National Rifle Association, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, the Upper Peninsula BearHoundsmen Association, the Michigan Hunting Dog Federationand the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
At the center of the lawsuit is the delisting of a distinct population segment of wolves from the Endangered Species Act.
The Humane Society of the United States and other plaintiffs contend that despite a healthy population of wolves that have met all recovery goals in the western Great Lakes, because wolf populations in general haven’t recovered in all 50 states, they should remain under federal protection as an endangered species.
Judge Howell, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010, agreed and vacated the region’s delisting of the wolves and ordered them returned to an endangered species listing.
“This is a completely illogical decision and entirely emblematic of how the animal-rights community continually manipulates the Endangered Species Act,” said Evan Heusinkveld, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Vice President of Government Affairs. “It’s clear that wolf populations have recovered – no one is debating that science – but a federal judge has now decided that wolves should again return to federal protection.”
The ruling flies in the face of 18 years of policy and court rulings. Since 1996, when the Clinton administration implemented the distinct population segment policy, it was said to apply to both the listing and delisting of plants and animals as endangered species.
“In her ruling, Judge Howell has disregarded recovery of this specific population of wolves, nearly two decades of policy and court rulings, as well as common sense,” said Nick Pinizzotto, President and CEO of U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. “In essence, a federal court just ruled that until wolves are re-established in New York City or Washington D.C., they cannot be considered ‘recovered‘ in Michigan, Minnesota or Wisconsin.”
The 100-page decision was handed down late Friday afternoon. The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and its partners will review the decision and opinion and weigh what legal options remain to protect sportsmen’s interests and the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem.