Other Actions to Protect Wolves
Wolves have a long and complicated legal history. Here’s a look at where things stand today in the courts and with other actions to protect wolves.
Actions Pending for Wolves
Beyond the lawsuit over delisting, there are separate actions pending to protect wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.
It’s important to remember that the delisting rule that went into effect in January 2021 did not include wolves in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and portions of Oregon, Washington and Utah. Wolves in most of those places lost protection by an act of Congress in 2011, including a provision that the decision could not be appealed in court. Wyoming’s wolves lost protections the following year.
Several actions have been taken to protect wolves in the northern Rockies:
- The Center for Biological Diversity, HSUS, HSUS Legislative Fund and Sierra Club in May 2021 filed an administrative petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service to relist wolves in the northern Rockies.
- After Idaho passed laws to wipe out 90% of its wolves, the Center for Biological Diversity in May 2021 sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging the agency to withhold Pittman-Robertson Act funds from Idaho. These are funds generated by excise tax on the sales of guns and ammunition which then get distributed to the states for use in the conservation of wildlife and land.
- The Center for Biological Diversity in May 2021 urged Montana wildlife officials not to enact barbaric new laws to kill about 80% of the state’s wolves and highlighted the risk of losing Pittman-Robertson funds as a result.
- In June 2021, Earthjustice, on behalf of Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Clearwater, HSUS, International Wildlife Coexistence Network, Sierra Club, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and Wolves of the Rockies filed a “notice of intent to sue” the state of Montana if wolf trapping seasons are expanded and new methods of trapping, such as strangulation snares, are allowed in grizzly bear and lynx habitat within the state. The trapping raises the risks of incidental harming or killing of grizzly bears and lynx, both of which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
- In June 2021, Earthjustice, on behalf of Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, HSUS/HSUS Legislative Fund, Friends of the Clearwater, International Wildlife Coexistence Network, Sierra Club, Western Watersheds Project, Montana Wildlife Federation, Wolves of the Rockies and Wilderness Watch, filed an administrative petition with the U.S. Forest Service urging the agency to issue new regulations to prohibit trapping of wolves in wilderness areas of Montana and Idaho.
- In July 2021, Earthjustice, on behalf of Center for Biological Diversity, Footloose Montana, Friends of the Clearwater, International Wildlife Coexistence Network, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, Sierra Club, Trapfree Montana Public Lands, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and Wolves of the Rockies filed a “notice of Intent to sue” the state of Idaho if expansive hunting, trapping and snaring of wolves are allowed in grizzly bear and lynx habitat within the state. The trapping raises the risks of incidental harming or killing of grizzly bears and lynx, both of which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
- An administrative petition was filed July 29, 2021, by Western Watersheds Project on behalf of itself and 70 additional organizations, urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect all wolves in the western United States as a Distinct Population Segment under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Litigation also has been filed in state courts to protect wolves in Wisconsin and in Michigan:
- On April 2, 2021, The ’06 Legacy filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for stacking its public wolf advisory group with members who favor wolf hunting to ensure a pro-hunting agenda.
- On Aug. 17, 2021, after the Humane Society of the United States and Center for Biological Diversity submitted a letter calling for his removal, Wisconsin’s attorney general sued Department of Natural Resources Board Chair Frederick Prehn to prevent him from continuing to unlawfully serve on the board and to continue to cast votes unlawfully regarding wolf hunting matters. In September a state court dismissed the lawsuit but the state Department of Natural Resources plans to file an appeal.
- On Aug. 31, 2021, a lawsuit was filed by The Great Lakes Wildlife Alliance, Project Coyote, Animal Wellness Action, The Center for Humane Economy, and Patrick Clark against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, the director of the DNR, and one of the DNR board members. This suit challenges the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s wolf hunt law, decisions made by the DNR board with regard to the wolf hunts and the expired term of a deciding board member. The plaintiffs have since filed a motion for preliminary injunction to halt any state-instituted wolf hunts until their case can be heard on the merits. The hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction is scheduled for Oct. 21, 2021.
- On Sept. 21, 2021, a lawsuit was filed by the Red Cliff Band, Bad River Band, and Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, the Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of the Lac Du Flambeau Reservation of Wisconsin, the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, and Sokaogon Chippewa Community. This suit challenges and seeks to halt the state hunting of wolves as a violation of longstanding Tribal Treaty rights. On Oct. 1, 2021, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit filed a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to halt any wolf hunt until a court can rule on the merits of the lawsuit.
Additional tribal actions include:
- Dozens of Native American tribes asked the Biden administration on Sept. 14, 2021 to immediately enact emergency protections for wolves, saying states have become too aggressive in hunting the animal. The request, which was made in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, was filed by the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, the Association on American Indian Affairs, the Navajo Nation, the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, the Native Justice Coalition, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.
- The Assembly of First Nations, composed of 634 chiefs representing all First Nations across Canada, petitioned Secretary Haaland to take emergency action and provide federal protection for wolves in the lower 48 states.
- A film called “Family,” which was produced by Rain Bear Stands Last of the Global Indigenous Council, was released July 7, 2021. It highlights the wolf’s plight and the urgent need to act to protect wolves. The film also reminds viewers of “The Wolf: A Treaty of Cultural and Environmental Survival.” The Wolf Treaty, issued in 2019, was signed by more than 120 tribes and Indigenous spiritual leaders, authors, orators, and water protectors, and strongly emphasizes Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and an adherence to the Indigenous Rights of Nature (IRON).