Why aren’t wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming federally protected under the Endangered Species Act?
On Feb. 10, 2022, a federal judge ruled that gray wolves should again receive federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.
That ruling, though, doesn’t apply to wolves in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and parts of Oregon, Utah and Washington.
Why is that?
This post aims to answer that question.
Long story short
The simple answer is that, in 2011, Congress removed wolves from Endangered Species Act protections in Montana, Idaho and portions of Oregon, Utah and Washington. (For information on what happened in Wyoming, see below.)
During negotiations on an important federal budget bill that year, a rider/provision to delist wolves was added to the bill. So, by passing the budget bill in April 2011, Congress removed wolves from ESA protections.
It was the first, and remains the only, time that Congress removed a species from the Endangered Species List. Usually, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service proposes such action.
The rider also included a provision that the rule “shall not be subject to judicial review.”
The 2011 rider restored a 2009 rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that considered the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf as a “Distinct Population Segment” encompassing Montana, Idaho and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah.
The rule was overturned in 2010, but the action by Congress in 2011 restored it.
Wyoming’s wolves are considered to be part of the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf Distinct Population Segment, but the 2009 rule did not include the state because Wyoming had not set up “adequate regulatory mechanisms” to preserve the population. In 2012 FWS issued a rule delisting wolves in Wyoming.
After the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately upheld that rule, in May 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule implementing the court’s judgment that removed federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and thus formally included them in the Distinct Population Segment. That action then covered them by the 2011 rider.
The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.