Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 11, 2023


Sophia Ressler, (206) 399-4004,

Court Ruling Signals Gray Wolves Need More Regions to Recover

Case Defines Federal Responsibilities for Wide-Ranging Endangered Species

WASHINGTON— A federal judge today refused to dismiss the Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saying the agency has not met federal requirements for a nationwide gray wolf recovery plan.

“This straight-forward ruling signals safer trails ahead for the exceedingly vulnerable wolves in western Oregon and Washington, Colorado and the Northeast,” said Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I hope this finally ends the Service’s decades-long gerrymandering of wolf ranges in its attempt to prematurely remove wolves from the endangered species list. The agency must live up to the reality of what science and the law demand. That means a comprehensive plan that addresses gray wolf recovery across the country.”

Today’s ruling says regional recovery plans for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Midwest, along with a subspecies recovery plan for Mexican gray wolves, don’t meet the Endangered Species Act’s requirements for a national recovery plan. It does not yet settle November’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which challenged the agency for failing to develop a national recovery plan that includes all significant portions of the wolf’s range in the 44 states where the animals are endangered.

The ruling does not directly impact wolves in Alaska, or the northern Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, as well as wolves in certain portions of Oregon, Washington and Utah.

Gray wolves have been protected on a piecemeal basis under the Endangered Species Act and its two predecessor laws. At first, presumed subspecies in most areas were individually listed as endangered, but wolves not identified as a protected subspecies were still killed with impunity.

Recognizing the conservation importance of these unprotected wolves, in 1978 the Service consolidated the listings nationwide. In 2011 Congress removed protections from wolves in the northern Rockies. In 2015, responding to a Center petition, the Service protected the Mexican gray wolf and developed separate recovery criteria for this subspecies.

However, the Service has refused to develop a recovery plan for gray wolves remaining on the endangered list and those on the threatened list in Minnesota that would lay out recovery criteria for imperiled wolves outside the regions in which recovery plans apply.

“I’m tremendously heartened that the court recognized the importance of the Service’s duties to protect endangered wolves,” said Ressler. “We’ll continue vigorously pursuing the remainder of this lawsuit.”

Gray wolf, Canis lupus, Gary Kramer, USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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