BILLINGS — A judge has ordered federal protections restored for gray wolves across much of the U.S. after they were removed in the waning days of the Trump administration.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said in Thursday’s ruling that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to show wolf populations could be sustained in the Midwest and portions of the West without protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Wildlife advocates had argued state-sponsored hunting threatened to reverse the gray wolf’s recovery over the past several decades.
The ruling does not directly impact wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, which remain under state jurisdiction.
Federal officials argued wolves were resilient enough to bounce back even if their numbers dropped sharply due to intensive hunting.
At stake is the future of a species whose recovery from near-extinction has been heralded as a historic conservation success. That recovery also has brought bitter blowback from hunters and farmers angered over wolf attacks on big game herds and livestock. They contend protections are no longer warranted.
Interior Department spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said the agency was reviewing the decision.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.