Non-Profit Challenges FWS Decision to Revoke Gray Wolves’ Endangered Status

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed suit against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) over its decision to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of threatened and endangered species. The Monday-filed complaint asks the court to set aside the agency’s determination because it was based on flawed assumptions and also failed to consider the best available scientific information in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

According to the NRDC, gray wolf populations have been recovering since the species was listed in the 1970s. However, the filing contends, “[g]ray wolves remain endangered throughout significant portions of their range.” In particular, the NRDC points to small and vulnerable populations in the Central Rockies, along the Pacific Coast, and the Northeast.

Despite the FWS’s past and repeated attempts to reduce or eliminate wolf protections over the last two decades, the species has recovered exceptionally well in the Great Lakes area, the filing notes. Now, however, the FWS is allegedly using this recovery as the basis for delisting gray wolves nationwide.

The plaintiff argues that in so deciding, the FWS improperly relied on one or two core populations, impermissibly treated the Pacific Coast population as a “remnant,” and misapplied a key ESA term. The FWS also allegedly failed to “use the best scientific evidence available in its analysis of a significant portion of wolves’ range, failing to account for the impacts and causes of lost historical range, and failing to provide notice of its analysis…” As a result, the NRDC contends, the decision violates the ESA and its implementing regulations, and is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law.

The NRDC is represented by its own counsel.