Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 29, 2022


Sophia Ressler, (206) 399-4004,

New Lawsuit Demands National Gray Wolf Recovery Plan

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today challenging the failure of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a national gray wolf recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act.

Recovery plans should describe actions needed to achieve the full recovery of species listed under the Act. But the gray wolf’s outdated recovery plan was developed in 1992 and mostly focuses on Minnesota. It neglects other places where wolves have lived and could recover, like the West Coast, southern Rocky Mountains and northeastern United States.

“The Service can’t rely on its outdated, unambitious, and piecemeal approach to wolf recovery any longer,” said Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the Center. “The agency’s refusal to complete a national wolf recovery plan, besides violating the law, neglects both the people who want this majestic species to recover and the wolves who are so important to our country’s biodiversity.”

The agency’s wolf-recovery planning focused on wolf populations in three separate geographic areas: the “eastern timber wolf” in Minnesota, the now-delisted gray wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains, and the now separately listed Mexican gray wolf in the Southwest. No plan comprehensively addresses gray wolf recovery across the country. Many areas where wolves currently live and breed — and where their reestablishment is in its infancy, such as California and Colorado — have no plan to guide their recovery.

Today’s lawsuit also challenges the Service’s failure to complete a required status review for the gray wolf in a timely way. The last review was completed more than a decade ago, even though the Endangered Species Act requires the agency to complete these reviews every five years.

“The Endangered Species Act is one of the most powerful tools we have to protect this country’s wildlife,” said Ressler. “We’re only asking that the Service do its duty and allow the Act to truly work for wolves.”


Scientists estimate that as many as 2 million gray wolves once roamed North America, including much of the contiguous United States. Because of government-sponsored killing programs, wolf numbers in the lower 48 states dwindled to fewer than 1,000 animals, residing almost entirely in northeastern Minnesota.

Federal protections have allowed the nation’s wolf population to increase slowly, but only to about 1% of their historical numbers and occupying only about 15% of their historical range. Despite this the Service has routinely attempted to remove protection from the species.

Most recently, in November 2020, the agency finalized a rule that removed all Endangered Species Act protections from most gray wolves nationwide. A federal court vacated that rule in February and restored the wolf’s federal protection in the lower 48 states. Those protections do not extend to wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, however, who are currently not protected under the Act. The Center and its allies recently filed a lawsuit to restore protection to wolves in that region.

Gray wolf, Canis lupus, Tracy Brooks/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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