The gray wolf is still a protected species after a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday against the Interior Department’s 2011 decision to delist the animals under the Endangered Species Act.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regulators “failed to reasonably analyze or consider two significant aspects of the rule — the impacts of partial delisting and of historical range loss on the already-listed species.” Judges vacated the Obama-era decision to delist the wolf species, restoring protections for the wolves and basically making them the Trump administration’s responsibility.
The Interior Department has not said if it plans to appeal the ruling.
Regulators in 2011 delisted the gray wolf in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan and parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, because they said that the populations there were “significant” and they did not think that disease and humans posed a threat to the species.
The Humane Society sued over the decision, and a federal district court ruled against the delisting effort in 2014.
Now, there’s a bi-partisan effort amongst congressional Republicans and some Democrats who want to introduce legislation which would force the FWS to again delist the Great Lakes gray wolf and make sure the courts cannot change it.
To that end, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act last week with a provision that would delist the wolf and prohibit judicial review.
There’s a similar provision in the House’s appropriations bill for the Interior Department and a separate bill from Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), but they both have yet to receive a full House vote.
Earlier in March, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order on his first day in office, overturning an Obama policy that banned hunting with lead ammunition and fishing tackle on wildlife refuges, reports the Washington Times.
The policy was originally implemented by former Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe on the Obama administration’s final full day in office was intended to prevent lead poisoning of animals on federal lands regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Since the legislation was enacted, many critics–namely, sportsmen’s groups and gun rights advocates–argue the real reason for the ban on lead ammunition was to discourage hunting and fishing for many Americans.
“After reviewing the order and the process by which it was promulgated, I have determined that the order is not mandated by any existing statutory or regulatory requirement and was issued without significant communication, consultation or coordination with affected stakeholders,” Zinke wrote in his order.
Supporters of the Obama lead-ban contend that Zinke repealing the order was dangerous. “There’s just no excuse not to make the transition [away from lead bullets], except for knee-jerk opposition from a segment of society that simply thinks it’s acceptable collateral damage for upwards of 15 million animals from more than 130 species to die of lead poisoning every year,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. “Hunters can still pursue their hobby without dumping tons of toxic poison on the wildlife who live there.”
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