The United States has announced plans to remove the grey wolf from its list of endangered species, saying recovery efforts have been successful and the animal no longer requires federal protection.
In a statement on Thursday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said state and tribal wildlife agencies would soon take responsibility for ongoing sustainability efforts and protection of the species.
The agency said there are more than 6,000 grey wolves across the lower 48 US states – all the US states except Hawaii and Alaska.
The grey wolf is now “neither a threatened nor endangered species” under the Endangered Species Act, US Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in the statement.
“Today’s action reflects the Trump administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” Bernhardt said.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) immediately rejected the move by the administration of US President Donald Trump, however, saying the species requires continued protection because the US does not have a national wolf recovery plan in place.
“You cannot have a national wolf recovery without putting forward a national wolf recovery plan. This still has not happened, so eliminating federal protections for grey wolves is a huge setback in recovery efforts,” the conservation group’s senior director for wildlife, Sylvia Fallon, said.
Fallon said in a statement that grey wolves are still missing from much of their remaining habitat in the western and northeastern US and she accused decision-makers of “prioritising politics over science”.
Kristen Boyles, an attorney with the environmental legal group Earthjustice, echoed that.
“This delisting decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy,” she said in a statement signed by a handful of environmental groups that vowed to fight the Trump administration’s decision in court.
You cannot have a national wolf recovery without putting forward a national wolf recovery plan. This still has not happened.
“Stripping protections for grey wolves is premature and reckless. Grey wolves occupy only a fraction of their former range and need continued federal protection to fully recover,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO at Defenders of Wildlife, another conservation group.
“We will be taking the US Fish and Wildlife Service to court to defend this iconic species.”
The grey wolf historically lived across two-thirds of the country, the National Wildlife Federation says on its website, but today its population is found in Alaska and parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming.
The animal was added to the endangered species list in 1978.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service said its decision will be published in the federal register on November 3 and come into effect 60 days later on January 4, 2021.
The agency said Thursday that the Mexican wolf, a subspecies of the grey wolf found in New Mexico and Arizona, remains on the endangered species list.