April 1, 2003 Final Rule to Reclassify/Delist the Gray Wolf kes DPS
This Final Rule is no longer in effect
On January 31, 2005, the Oregon U.S. District Court issued an opinion and order on our 2003 reclassification rule. The Oregon ruling concluded that the 2003 DPS boundaries and reclassification decisions were "arbitrary and capricious" and violated the Endangered Species Act. The Court's ruling invalidated the April 2003 changes. The Vermont District Court ruled similarly. Therefore, the status of the gray wolf reverted back to the ESA status that existed prior to the 2003 reclassification, and the status and protection changes described in this summary are no longer valid.
Summary of the 2003 Final Rule to Reclassify the Gray Wolf - April 1, 2003
Since first listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1974, recovery programs have helped gray wolf populations rebound from the lows experienced during the mid-1900s. Today, wolf recovery has almost been achieved in the Eastern United States. In the West, reintroduced gray wolves in Wyoming and Idaho complement a naturally recovering population in northwestern Montana.
As a result of these successes, we (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) changed the ESA designation of the gray wolf in most of the 48 states to reflect the species' current population status. We proposed the change in July 2000, and have now finalized it, but in a form modified from the original proposal. Our final decision does not affect gray wolves in Alaska or Canada, or the red wolf, a separate species found in the Southeast. The following is a summary of that final decision.
Separate Listings for Each Recovery Program
Formerly, the gray wolf was listed as endangered across the 48 states and Mexico, except in Minnesota where it was listed as threatened. This final decision replaces that listing with three separate smaller listings. Those listings have been designated as Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) under the Endangered Species Act. In total, the three DPSs cover all the area that we believe was historically occupied by the gray wolf. Each DPS contains one of our gray wolf recovery programs in its core, as well as an adjacent area where wolves are not currently found, except possibly as occasional dispersing individuals. The protection given to each of these areas varies with the health of the wolf population there.
The Eastern Gray Wolf DPS encompasses the historical range of the gray wolf from the Great Plains to the Atlantic Coast. Due to the successful gray wolf recovery in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, this DPS is now classified as threatened.
The Western Gray Wolf DPS primarily includes the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific coastal states. In the Northern U.S. Rockies, wolf recovery efforts have also been successful to the point that we have reclassified this DPS to threatened.
The Southwestern Gray Wolf DPS includes Arizona and New Mexico, southern Colorado and southern Utah, western Oklahoma, western Texas, and Mexico. Our efforts to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves in the southwest are still in the early stage. Wolf numbers are low, threats appear relatively high, and recovery is many years in the future. Therefore, the Southwestern DPS retains a classification of endangered. The special regulation for the nonessential experimental population designation for wolves in parts of Arizona, Mexico and Texas is unchanged by this final rule.
The Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic portions of the U.S. are outside of the historical range of the gray wolf. Although these areas were included in the 1978 listing of the gray wolf, their inclusion was in error. These areas are now "delisted" they are no longer included in any of the ESA's protections for the gray wolf. However, the red wolf, a separate wolf species, is still listed as endangered in the Southeast and is not affected by any of these changes.
the Nonessential Experimental Population Designations in the Northern
Regulations for the Western DPS and the Eastern DPS
In the case of the gray wolf, one of those unique needs is to reduce the conflicts that arise between wolves and people who own domestic animals including pets and livestock. Due to differences in livestock raising practices across wolf range, we have developed two different special regulations under section 4(d) to reduce wolf-domestic animal conflicts without unnecessarily impacting continued wolf recovery.
The special regulation for most of the Eastern DPS focuses on removing wolves that have been verified as having attacked or killed domestic animals. It provides States and Tribes with the authority to kill such wolves without the need to obtain a Federal permit. This part of the special regulation is very similar to the regulation that has authorized lethal control of depredating wolves in Minnesota since 1978. The new special regulation also provides Tribes with the authority to salvage dead wolves for religious and other traditional cultural uses without a Federal permit. This new regulation applies to the part of the Eastern DPS that is west of Pennsylvania; however, it does not include Minnesota (see next section).
The new special regulation for the Western DPS is very similar to the regulations that continue to cover the nonessential experimental population areas in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. It allows a variety of methods to reduce wolf-domestic animal conflicts, depending on the severity and frequency of the conflicts, and whether they occur on private or public land. Many of these methods are now available to livestock and dog owners. Other methods can be carried out by the Service or by other Federal, State, or Tribal agencies that we designate for such purposes.
Because these two new special regulations are closely based on the existing special regulations that have been successfully used for Minnesota wolves and wolves within the northern Rockies NEPs, we expect them to reduce wolf-domestic animal conflicts while allowing core wolf populations to continue to increase.
No Changes for
Minnesota Wolves or for Critical Habitat in Minnesota and Michigan
This new final rule does not affect the previously established Federal protections afforded to gray wolves in Minnesota. Minnesota wolves remain threatened under the ESA; the Minnesota section 4(d) rule continues to be in effect; and the three areas designated as critical habitat in Minnesota (as well as the fourth critical habitat area on Isle Royale, Michigan) are unchanged.
Changes for Gray Wolves in the Southwestern Distinct Population Segment
From the Proposed Rule to this Final Rule
Listing three instead of four DPSs - Our July 2000 proposal included four DPSs, while this final rule lists only three. We combined the proposed Western Great Lakes DPS and the proposed Northeastern DPS into a single Eastern DPS because there is no firm evidence that a wolf population exists in the Northeastern U.S. and there is now uncertainty about the identify of the wolf species that was historically found there.
Future Changes in Federal Protection for Gray Wolves
or use the GRAYWOLFMAIL@FWS.GOV address or call the Service's Gray Wolf Information Line at 612-713-7337.