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February 26, 2008

Protecting Wolves in Court

(…and now a word from our lawyers)

Some people are questioning the necessity of legal action regarding the decision to delist the northern Rockies wolf. I’m here to let you know why I believe it is not only a necessary action, but in fact crucial to the survival of the species in the region.

The return of the wolf in the northern Rockies is one of the Endangered Species Act's (ESA) greatest success stories, but the Bush Administration’s decision to remove the wolf from the list of federally-protected endangered species is premature and threatens to undo all the progress we have made.

I, on behalf of Defenders and along with other conservation groups and numerous scientists, strongly urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to delist the wolf at this time because the current population is inadequate for biological recovery and the states of Wyoming and Idaho particularly have not demonstrated a serious commitment to wolf conservation. The best scientific evidence available tells us that wolves have not yet reached minimum viable population levels that will assure their place in the northern Rockies ecosystem for generations to come.

That’s why, on March 28, 2008, as soon as the delisting decision was published in the Federal Register, Defenders and our partners notified the Bush Administration by letter of our intent to challenge the delisting decision in federal court. Under the citizen-suit provision of the ESA, citizens must give the government 60-days’ notice prior to actually filing a lawsuit. The letter reiterates our opposition to wolf delisting and explains why under federal law wolf delisting is not merely unwise but contrary to law. We will file suit in federal district court as soon as the 60-day waiting period elapses.

Litigation is a tool of last resort but it is also an important safeguard against improper government action. This is not the first time I have been forced to turn to the courts to protect wolves. The Bush Administration tried to reduce wolf protections once before in 2003. Defenders challenged that decision and a federal district court sided with us, ensuring that wolves would continue to enjoy the full protection of the ESA until their recovery is complete.

The restoration of the wolf in the West is simply not complete. To allow the states to reduce wolf populations from the present 1500 to a potential minimum population of a few hundred is folly and abandons wolf recovery. Wolves are simply not ready to lose federal protections, and I am confident that the courts will agree.

Read more about Defenders' work In the Courts with Northern Rockies Wolves and the 10J Rule.


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