With over 108 wolves killed since Endangered Species Act protections were lifted in March, they are now protected again. The Idaho Statesman and other sources are reporting that the Federal judge has restored protection for northern Rocky Mountain wolves. The judge has ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service violated their own rules and criteria in allowing the delisting. The order is a temporary order but it indicates that the final ruling is expected to be consistent.
This lawsuit makes a few very important points. The Fish and Wildlife service determined what would be required to have a sustainable and healthy wolf population in the future. This criteria included maintaining minimum populations in the three primary states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. The Wyoming wolf management plan was eventually adopted without this guarantee. Second, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that genetic exchange between the three core populations would also be required. Delisting occurred before this criteria was met. These issues were the basis of the ruling.
In my previous feedback to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and to the Idaho Fish and Game, I have emphasized both of these issues. That minimum populations must be maintained and that those populations must be sufficiently large to benefit our ecosystems and cause wolf dispersals. These dispersals will be to other locations which do not have wolves today (wolves from Idaho have dispersed to both Oregon and Washington). but also between populations to keep genetic diversity strong. I do believe that wolves should be delisted but only if we have processes in place to ensure that they don't return to the list through our mismanagement.
Defenders of Wildlife and the other conservation organizations need to be commended on their work here. I have been a financial supporter of Defenders of Wildlife since they established the critical reimbursement fund for any wolf depredations. They were willing to put their money to work to make the wolf reintroduction happen.