Great Lakes wolves ordered back to endangered list

Associated Press

Traverse City – — A federal judge on Friday threw out an Obama administration decision to remove the gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered species list — a decision that will ban further wolf hunting and trapping in Michigan and two other states.

The order also affects wolves in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped federal protections from those wolves in 2012 and handed over management to the states.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., ruled Friday the removal was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated the federal Endangered Species Act.

Unless overturned, his decision will prohibit further wolf hunting and trapping in the three states, all of which have had at least one hunting season since protections were removed.

More than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves have been killed since federal protections were removed, said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States. The group filed a lawsuit that prompted Howell’s ruling.

“We are pleased that the court has recognized that the basis for the delisting decision was flawed, and would stop wolf recovery in its tracks,” Lovvorn said.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire said the agency would issue a statement shortly.

There was no immediate reaction from officials in the three states.

In a statement Friday, Ed Golder, public information officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said: “The Michigan DNR was notified Friday afternoon by the Michigan Attorney General's Office of the decision regarding wolves from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

“The Michigan DNR is currently working with the state Attorney General to thoroughly analyze the decision to determine the immediate impacts and long-term options for the management of wolves in Michigan.

“Once the programmatic and legal implications of this ruling are fully explored, we will make known the next steps in wolf management in the state.”

Some conservationists were disappointed with the decision. Dan Eichinger, executive director for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, called it a “perversion” of the intent of the Endangered Species Act.

“The state doesn’t have any authority over gray wolves any longer in Michigan,” Eichinger said.

“We believe that wolves have exceeded the definition of recovery, that state resource agencies like our DNR and the professionals there are the ones who should be managing wolves,”he added.

Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed.