Biden backs Trump’s removal of wolf from Endangered Species List but MN puts off hunting season

In a little-noticed development recently the Biden administration signaled it will not challenge one of Donald Trump’s signature environmental policies announced days before the 2020 election — the removal of wolves from the Endangered Species List. The surprise move occurred in a California case last month brought by an environmental activist group seeking to overturn the predator’s removal from federal protection, according to the Associated Press.

The removal of Endangered Species Act protections had been in the works for years and was the right thing to do when finalized in Trump’s last days, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director for Ecological Services Gary Frazer told AP.

On Friday, attorneys for the administration asked a federal judge in California to reject a lawsuit from wildlife advocate s that seeks to restore protections, signaling the conclusion of Biden’s promise on his first day in office to review the Trump move.

The policy board for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has already approved a hunting season with a quota of 300 wolves starting on Nov. 6, the second hunt to be held since the animal’s delisting. While it was a contentious process, the main question was not whether to hold a hunting season, but how many wolves should be culled, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

The board’s vote goes against a recommendation by the DNR to set the harvest at 130 wolves due to uncertainty over the population’s response to the February wolf hunt. State-licensed hunters harvested nearly double their 119-wolf quota, killing 218 wolves in less than 72 hours.

Discussion of the wolf harvest quota grew heated at times as board members and the DNR debated the state’s obligations to tribes and whether the harvest level should follow the state’s existing wolf management plan.

Some board members, including Vice Chair Greg Kazmierski, argued they’re responsible for bringing the population in line with the state’s goal of 350 wolves outlined in the agency’s existing plan.

“We are stuck with what’s in front of us today, and we need to show at least some effort that we’re moving toward that goal,” said Kazmierski.

Wisconsin has a significantly smaller wolf population than Minnesota. Yet the Minnesota DNR continues to put off making a decision on resuming the successful management plan, including a hunting and trapping season, that was in place before a federal judge halted it in 2014.

Under Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who opposes a wolf hunt, the agency ruled out a hunting or trapping season for 2021 earlier this summer.

The agency said in a statement that it’s taking longer than expected to update its 20-year-old wolf management plan, and it’s now expected to be done by March.

“We will use our updated plan as we determine whether and how to use various management tools to ensure continuation of a healthy and sustainable wolf population in Minnesota,” the statement said. “Consideration of whether to hold hunting or trapping seasons will be guided by the updated plan.”

Yet the AP notes that somehow other states have found a way to move forward with management plans that maintain healthy wolf populations while also protecting the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers.

Hundreds of wolves are now killed annually by hunters and trappers in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The Northern Rockies’ population has remained strong — more than 3,000 animals, according to wildlife officials — because wolves breed so successfully and can roam huge areas of wild land in the sparsely populated region.