BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — More than 45 years after gray wolves were first listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Trump Administration and its many conservation partners are announcing the successful recovery of the gray wolf and its delisting from the ESA. U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt was at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to announce that state and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves in states with gray wolf populations, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) monitors the species for five years to ensure the continued success of the species.
The Service based its final determination solely on the best scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated and the ongoing commitment and proven track record of states and tribes to continue managing for healthy wolf populations once delisted. This analysis includes the latest information about the wolf’s current and historical distribution in the contiguous United States
“Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law.”
In total, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000 wolves, greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations.
The gray wolf is the latest in a strong list of ESA recoveries that includes the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American alligator, brown pelican and 48 other species of animals and plants in U.S. states, territories and waters. Countless more have improved or stabilized. Collectively, these successes demonstrate that the ESA can make a difference for imperiled species.
No administration in history has recovered more imperiled species in their first term than the Trump Administration. Since 2017, thirteen species – and now the gray wolf – have been determined to not be either a threatened species or endangered species under the ESA’s List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, and another seven species have been downlisted from endangered species to threatened species. To provide context for this in looking at other administrations in their first term, the Obama Administration recovered six species; the Bush Administration recovered eight species; and the Clinton Administration recovered nine species.
“President Trump’s Administration has focused on proactive measures, including partnerships with organizations, to ensure listed species flourish to the point of recovery,” said Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Aurelia Skipwith. “Today is a win for the gray wolf and the American people. I am grateful for these partnerships with States and Tribes and their commitment to sustainable management of wolves that will ensure the species long-term survival following this delisting.”
By the early part of the 20th century, the gray wolf had become scarce across almost the entire landscape of the lower 48 states. But, the dedicated efforts of partners that included states, tribes, conservation organizations and private landowners working together under the auspices of the ESA, brought this great predator back to healthy, stable numbers. Gray wolves in the United States exist primarily as two large, genetically diverse, stable to growing populations broadly distributed across several contiguous U.S. States, with an additional large population in Alaska that was never listed.
Gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains, where a healthy and sustainable population roams across Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and eastern portions of Oregon and Washington, were previously delisted. These states have since managed this delisted population effectively and responsibly. Wolves have even expanded into western Oregon, western Washington, northern California and most recently in northwest Colorado.
The Western Great Lakes wolf population in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the largest outside Alaska, is also strong and stable. These states have been key partners in wolf recovery efforts and have made a commitment to continue their activities. The states of Washington, Oregon, California and Colorado are also committed to conserving wolves, as demonstrated by their development of management plans and laws protecting wolves.
This final rule excludes Mexican wolves as that species remains listed under the ESA. The final rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
More information is online at https://www.fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery.
BACKGROUND ON ESA REFORMS AND NORTH AMERICAN MODEL OF WILDLIFE CONSERVATION UNDER THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
Fish and wildlife conservation depends on federal partnerships with states, landowners, and most importantly sportsmen who directly fund – to the tune of $1 billion last year alone and more than $23 billion since inception – conservation efforts by purchasing hunting and fishing licenses, fishing tackle, ammunition, boating fuel and other recreational items.
To support stronger on-the-ground conservation efforts, encourage private actions to benefit our most imperiled species and provide greater legal certainty for ESA determinations, the Service updated its ESA regulations in 2019 to improve the implementation of the law. The regulations hadn’t been updated since the ESA passed some forty years ago. However, those changes did not modify the five statutory factors that are considered for each listing determination.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
“The Department of the Interior should be commended for its work in recovering and delisting the gray wolf in the lower 48 states,” said U.S. Senator Mike Lee (UT). “Multiple states, including Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington already manage healthy and sustainable gray wolf populations. Now, under expanded state management, impacted communities will be able to determine how best to preserve gray wolf populations while protecting other native species and livestock.”
"The gray wolf is one of the most successful species recoveries in history, despite the mounds of federal red tape and abusive litigation preventing this long-overdue delisting,” said U.S. Representative Rob Bishop (UT-01). “It's unfortunate it took this long for the federal government to turn management back to the states, when in fact state management and expertise is what got us to where we are today. Once again, the Trump Administration and Interior leadership took action to move good policy forward."
“In northern Minnesota, proper management of the gray wolf is important to maintaining our way of life. Therefore, I applaud President Trump, Secretary Bernhardt, and Director Skipwith for listening to sound science and rightfully delisting the gray wolf in the lower 48 states,” said U.S. Representative Pete Stauber (MN-08). “With Minnesota’s whitetail firearm season so close, this announcement could not have come at a better time, as empowering state agencies to responsibly manage the gray wolf will help to conserve our deer herd for generations while putting cattle farmers at ease.
"Ranchers across the American West have lost livestock because of ever growing gray wolf populations with no way to protect their herds from this threat,” said U.S. Representative Doug LaMalfa (CA-01). "Gray wolf populations have exceeded recovery expectations for years, and three Administrations have tried to de-list the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act. President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt finally got it done. Turning gray wolf population management back over to states and tribes will give back local control and inevitably save cattle, sheep, other livestock, and families from the threat of a grey wolf. This is a great win for the West, and I thank the Trump Administration for consistently prioritizing agribusinesses across America.”
“The delisting of the gray wolf is an important milestone that illustrates the positive gains made in recovering this treasured species. I appreciate the efforts of all federal, state, tribal and local stakeholders in protecting and growing the gray wolf population,” said U.S. Representative Ken Calvert (CA-42). “The delisting component of the Endangered Species Act is a critical mechanism that shifts the management of sufficiently recovered species habitat to state and local authorities, thereby allowing our federal agencies to shift and maintain their focus on species facing a more significant threat to their survival.”
“The gray wolf is an Endangered Species Act success story. By empowering states to manage gray wolf populations, the federal government is recognizing the effectiveness of locally-led conservation efforts, basing management decisions on sound science – instead of politics, and providing certainty to families, farmers, and rural communities in Central Washington and throughout the country,” said U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse (WA-04). “This action is one of the many steps the Trump Administration is taking to modernize the Endangered Species Act and protect American wildlife, and I look forward to continuing to build upon these efforts in Congress.”
“I applaud the Administration’s final rule that delists the gray wolf in the lower 48 states. Federal protections restored healthy gray wolf populations years ago, and this rule appropriately returns the management of gray wolves to the states,” said U.S. Representative Collin Peterson (MN-07). “For years, I have called for this change on behalf of livestock owners and rural communities in Minnesota. This final rule allows Minnesota to set rules and protections for gray wolves that are more responsive to the needs of local communities.”
“Minnesotans are great stewards of America’s wildlife, but the gray wolf has long threatened farmers, their families, and their livelihoods. I applaud Secretary David Bernhardt and the Department of Interior for their work to return conservation efforts back to the states and local communities they impact,” said U.S. Representative Tom Emmer (MN-06). “Delisting the Gray Wolf will give Minnesota farmers the ability to protect their land and livestock. Minnesotans of both parties have sought this action for years, and I am grateful to the Trump Administration for recognizing that this species has successfully recovered, and for restoring local control.”
“Delisting is, and should be, the goal of the ESA,” said U.S. Representative Chris Stewart (UT-02). "With the delisting of the gray wolf, the administration is meeting that goal, and that success is something worth celebrating. When a species is no longer threatened, it ought to be quickly delisted.”
“I have said all along that listing decisions need to be made with two things in mind, the science and the preparedness of states to manage species,” said U.S. Representative Mike Simpson (ID-02). “I believe the science is clear and this Administration, like the previous Administration, agrees that wolves are recovered. Idaho has been the test case for state management and the benefits to other wildlife, livestock, and our ecosystem shows that that state management works. I applaud this decision and look forward to other states following the lead of Idaho and successfully managing the gray wolf population.”
“Thanks to the tireless effort of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and dozens of successful collaborative restoration projects across the West, the gray wolf has rebounded significantly over the past two decades,” said U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman (AR-04). “Scientific measurements of wolf populations have consistently shown the substantial restoration progress made by this Administration. I applaud the Secretary of the Interior for following that science and delisting the gray wolf. This is yet another example of how a local stakeholder-driven process can provide successful restoration results, and I look forward to the continued progress on restoring other listed species.”
“Thank you to Secretary Bernhardt for making a decision based on science and facts to delist the gray wolf from the List of Endangered Species,” said U.S. Representative Ken Buck (CO-04). “State and local officials are better equipped to make important decisions about how best to manage wildlife populations while protecting farmers, ranchers, and businesses. I applaud the Secretary for this thoughtful decision.”
“Today is a great victory for science and professional wildlife management. The gray wolf is one of the few actual success stories of the Endangered Species Act and has met every scientific criteria for delisting,” said U.S. Representative Paul Gosar (AZ-04). “Its delisting will cede control back to where it belongs, state and tribal governments. This is a clear win for the farmers, ranchers, and everyday citizens whose livelihoods have been threatened by growing unmanaged gray wolf populations. I applaud President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt for acting on sound science and taking this decisive action.”
“Thanks to the Trump administration’s leadership, management of gray wolves can now return to the states, where it belongs,” said Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem. “This announcement will provide more flexibility and protection to landowners and livestock producers working to make a living.”
“The re-emergence of the gray wolf in the United States is a great comeback story,” stated Governor of Nebraska Pete Ricketts. “The federal decision to de-list the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act returns management of wolf populations to the states. While confirmed sightings of gray wolves are very rare in Nebraska, we are grateful that the states will have responsibility for their management.”
“The State of Utah applauds the delisting of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act. States are often best positioned to appropriately manage wildlife populations. With the number of wolves growing across the West, we believe it is time to allow the states to take the helm. Utah has shown great success in growing and maintaining wildlife populations statewide, and we anticipate similar success in managing wolf populations,” said Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Brian Steed.
“American Agri-Women applauds the Department of the Interior for following through with this administration's promise to support partnerships with state and local agencies in reviewing endangered species,” stated American Agri-Women's President Karolyn Zurn. “The delisting of the gray wolf from the federal Endangered Species list and returning the management of this species to local agencies will be a better game plan. AAW supports state and local control of the management of all species of predators, such as the gray wolf. Management should include records showing harm to agriculture. The overpopulation of the gray wolf led to loss of livelihood for farmers and ranchers through loss of cattle and other livestock throughout the lower 48 states.”
“Rural residents of the contiguous United States owe a great debt of gratitude to the Trump Administration. Returning the jurisdiction over wolves, excepting Mexican wolves, to the State governments where they occur or might occur in the future paves the way into a future where all wildlife and all human endeavors and families can once again strive to exist harmoniously under the tried and true American model of wildlife management. Thank you, President Trump for making this sensible move that improves rural America, the lives of rural Americans and the American wildlife that is so important and precious to all of us,” said Retired U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Wetlands Biologist Jim Beers.
“The gray wolf has successfully recovered, and as management of the species returns to states and tribes, locally-led conservation, with the support of local conservation districts, will continue to ensure the species will not return to ESA’s endangered or threatened list,” stated National Association of Conservation Districts President Tim Palmer.
“The gray wolf was delisted in Montana in 2011, and ever since the state took over management of the species, population numbers have stayed well above the minimum sustainable levels for survival and recovery,” said Ravalli County, Montana Commissioner Greg Chilcott. “State and local governments are ready and willing partners helping to implement sound, scientific policies on the ground to protect the wolf and our communities. The recovery of gray wolf populations in the lower-48 states is a significant ESA success story showing what can be achieved when governments at all levels work together. I applaud the administration for taking the next step with today’s decision to delist the gray wolf in these states.”
“As a leader in the first successful delisting of the gray wolf 10 years ago, we welcome the closure this decision brings to the successful restoration of the wolf in the lower 48 states,” stated Boone and Crockett Club President Timothy C. Brady. “The gray wolf is now well established in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes states and is dispersing to suitable habitat in surrounding areas. The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to recover imperiled species so they no longer require the protections offered by the Act, and the gray wolf is a good example of how a species can be successfully recovered. The return of wolf management to state agencies opens an overdue next chapter to the story: managing wolves along with other wildlife without persecution or needless regulation. We appreciate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state agencies for their success in recovering wolves and look forward to the future collaborative management of this species.”
“Wisconsin Cattlemen's Association applauds both the Trump administration along with Secretary Bernhardt for officially delisting the gray wolf throughout the lower 48 states. Wisconsin established goals of increasing the wolf population in 2012, and today, the species has far exceeded those initially set thresholds. Returning the management to the states is welcomed news to the producers throughout Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region,” said Wisconsin Cattlemen's Association President Matt Ludlow.
“The Outdoor Heritage Coalition would like to express its sincere gratitude for your outstanding leadership and dedication to wildlife conservation. The nationwide delisting of the wolf is a major factor in sound wildlife management practices. Returning management authority to the states is a key first step in a long road to recovery for many struggling ungulate populations across the country,” stated the Outdoor Heritage Coalition, Montana.
“The delisting of the gray wolves is a pivotal action to allow proper management of the gray wolf and the species they share the landscape with by the individual States Wildlife Agencies,” said Arizona Deer Association President Don McDowell.
“Minnesota has a robust healthy timber wolf population. The Endangered Species Act has been a valuable conservation tool and has worked as intended in restoring the timber wolf in the state. Delisting is the fulfillment of the success of the Act and the established viable population. Congratulations! Minnesota is ready and capable of continued success,” stated Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Northeast Area Director Paul Hoppe.
“Colorado Farm Bureau's members are happy to hear about the decision to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List. It's a good thing any time a species can be brought back from the brink to healthy population levels. This is a testament to the science-based and collaborative process led by both state and federal wildlife officials. It further demonstrates that conservation efforts should continue to be focused on species restoration through partnership and collaboration, not through electoral politics or predetermined outcomes,” said Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft.
“We are proud of our efforts in Wyoming to conserve the gray wolf’s habitat and population in consultation with federal agencies,” stated Sublette County, Wyoming Commissioner Joel Bousman. “Populations continue to thrive in the northern Rocky Mountains because states implemented scientific measures that balance the needs of the species and our residents at the same time. Today’s decision to delist the gray wolf in the lower-48 states is further proof that population recovery goals can be met when all levels of government work together in a collaborative manner.”
“I'm very appreciative of the Trump administration's timely transfer of the management responsibility of the gray wolf back to the states. We look forward to working with organizations within our state to implement the state of Utah's Wolf Management Plan,” said Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Commissioner Logan Wilde.
“This is great news for Washington state where our wolf population has reached recoverable levels. We are very thankful for the work of President Trump, Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Director Aurelia Skipwith for all their work to make this happen. It’s time to end the federal/state split management of wolves in Washington and allow our state wildlife managers to manage wolves in conjunction with all other species,” said Washington Farm Bureau President Mike LaPlant.
“The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association together with all livestock producers applauds the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s final decision to delist Gray Wolves in the western two-thirds of the State. The continued 10 to 30% annual population increase of wolves and their spread to every corner of the State, support this long overdue decision. Producers have endured unacceptable personal stress, ongoing chronic confirmed and unconfirmed predation as well as loss of production in the cattle they work so hard to protect. This action will remove an unnecessary layer of management that has prevented responsible management for many years. This delisting does not remove all protections for Gray Wolves. Wolves will continue to be managed under the existing State Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. It is the expectation of OCA and every impacted producer that when clear, chronic predation is documented and the triggering criteria is met, swift, decisive management action will follow to stop the loss of livestock. This delisting supports responsible, effective management,” said Oregon Cattlemen’s Association Co-Chair Wolf Committee Roger Huffman.
“Ranchers in California hope the federal delisting of the gray wolf and successful recovery and wolf management in other parts of the country can serve as a model for our state. As wolf populations recover and thrive, ranchers need practical, effective ways to protect their livestock. In California, where wolves remain protected under the state Endangered Species Act, we will encourage leaders of the state wildlife agency to work cooperatively with ranchers to safeguard vulnerable livestock,” stated California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson.
“The Moffat County Colorado, Board of County Commissioners strongly supports delisting the Gray Wolf in the lower 48 states. In Colorado, we are eager to return to the long-standing policy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife sitting at the table with local governments and the agriculture industry to write a wolf management plan that protects the customs, culture, and local economy of the communities most directly affected by wolves,” said the Moffat County, Colorado Board of County Commissioners.
“The gray wolf has been on the Endangered Species List for almost 50 years, but species recovery efforts led by federal, state and local governments have helped their populations recover to sustainable goals,” stated Clearwater County, Minnesota Commissioner Mark Titera. “Today’s decision is a sign of success for the ESA. By allowing state governments to control the management of gray wolf populations, we can develop a more collaborative approach to protect the species, our economy and our communities. I support the Administration’s efforts to delist the gray wolf and look forward to working with our partners in the federal and state governments to better implement species recovery measures.”
“The Montana Stockgrowers Association commend the action taken to delist the gray wolf, as the species has exceeded its recovery goals. States regaining oversight will ensure continued commitment of maintaining healthy wolf populations. Management is always more impactful and effective when managed by the state. We applaud the administration, the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for moving this effort successfully forward,” said Montana Stockgrowers Association President Fred Wacker.
“Having more tools to manage this species is a good thing. As Gray Wolves in the lower 48 states come in to more conflict with livestock and populated areas clearly there is a need to address the problems it creates and delisting the species is a good start to getting management decision on a local level,” stated President Association of O&C Counties and Douglas County, Oregon Commissioner Tim Freeman.
“The American Sheep Industry Association commends the Department of the Interior for the successful recovery of the gray wolf population under the ESA and returning management of this species to the states. We are confident that this will ensure the continued sustainable population while also providing more tools to manage interactions between wolves, the public and domestic livestock,” said American Sheep Industry Association President Benny Cox.
"Mesa County is grateful for the leadership and dedication in returning gray wolf management authority to local governments to meet both the needs of communities and wildlife populations,” stated Mesa County, Colorado Commissioner Rose Femia-Pugliese.
“Wolf delisting should be considered one of the great successes of the Endangered Species Act. They have recovered and are doing very well under state management in the West,” said Montana Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President John Youngberg.
“This is an Endangered Species Act success story. The gray wolf joins more than 50 other animals, including the bald eagle, as an example of how careful management and partnerships between federal and state agencies can result in the successful recovery of a once-threatened species. The gray wolf population is now thriving so it is appropriate to turn management over to the states, which can oversee the species in a way that is most appropriate for each region,” stated American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duval.
“I believe that this is great first step, indicating that the wolf population is on a solid upward trajectory. Now we must continue the work at the state level to also reflect this trend,” said Baker County, Oregon Commissioner Mark Bennett.
“The Cattlemen of Minnesota are very appreciative of the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service teams in their decision to delist the gray wolf, allowing our state specialist to manage the Minnesota gray wolf population. For generations beef producers, and wolf biologists in Minnesota have been working together to understand and improve landscapes where livestock and wolves can coexist,” stated Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association President Mike Landuyt. “With this ruling, management of the gray wolf is now in the hands of state officials who can best manage the population to benefit beef and livestock producers, as well as gray wolf habitat in our state.”
“Oregon sportsmen and women applaud the Department of the Interior delisting of the gray wolf. Their recovery is a conservation success story and the delisting should be celebrated. We look forward to our renowned state agencies and local biologists taking over wolf management,” said Oregon Outdoor Council President Dominic Aiello.
“For more than a decade, ranchers have worked with federal and state officials, as well as conservation and wildlife management groups to achieve lasting and meaningful recovery for the gray wolf. Wyoming has shown that delisting the wolf can be done responsibly and that states are well-equipped to manage their wildlife. We are grateful to Secretary Bernhardt, Director Skipwith, and their teams for respecting the science that says the wolf has recovered and ensuring a strong future for wildlife across the country,” stated Wyoming Wool Growers Association President Vance Broadbent.
“America’s counties have worked with our local, state and federal partners to ensure the gray wolf population continues to thrive,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “The recovery of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act is one of the law’s key success stories. As co-regulators and stewards of the environment with significant public service responsibilities, counties support the delisting and down-listing of species once recovery goals are met.”
“The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission made the decisi