BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (FOX 9) - The gray wolf is no longer on the Endangered Species Act list and management of the species has been returned to the states and tribes, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced Thursday.
The gray wolf, which has populations in Minnesota, was first put on the endangered list 45 years ago. Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt visited the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota to announce the successful recovery of the gray wolf.
In a statement Thursday, Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources opposed the blanket delisting of the gray wolf from the list, saying while the wolf’s situation has improved in Minnesota, it has not elsewhere in the country. Long despised by farmers and ranchers, wolves were shot, trapped and poisoned out of existence in most of the U.S. by the mid-20th century.
In total, more than 6,000 gray wolves now live in the lower 48 states in the Northern Rocky Mountain and Western Great Lakes regions. The Western Great Lake region, which includes Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, is the largest gray wolf population outside Alaska in the U.S.
The Interior Secretary said state and tribal wildlife management agencies will take over responsibility for managing the population from the federal government.
“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,” said Secretary Bernhardt in a release.
Minnesota officials disagree
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said it told the federal government that, “all evidence indicates that the gray wolf population in Minnesota has recovered,” in July 2019.
However, the DNR said that the gray wolf’s status in Minnesota was not reflective of the rest of the country, saying, “a blanket delisting across the United States may not be warranted.”
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The Minnesota DNR says that continues to be its position with respect to the federal listing of the wolf.
Currently, the DNR is in the process of revamping its wolf population management plan, which has been in place since 2001. Input on that plan was set to close Nov. 1, but it has now been extended to Nov. 20 to allow people to consider the Interior Department’s announcement Thursday.
The DNR added that it has not made any decision about a potential hunting or trapping season for wolves in Minnesota.
Politicians sound off
A number of elected officials in Minnesota responded to the announcement Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, who represents Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, said the announcement is well-timed with white tail deer firearm season in Minnesota.
“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,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, of Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District, said returning management of the wolves to the states is the right thing to do.
“For years, I have called for this change on behalf of livestock owners and rural communities in Minnesota,” Peterson said. “This final rule allows Minnesota to set rules and protections for gray wolves that are more responsive to the needs of local communities.”
By delisting the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act list, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, of Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, says farmers can feel free to protect their livestock from the animals.
“Delisting the gray wolf will give Minnesota farmers the ability to protect their land and livestock,” he said. “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.”
In the past four years of the Trump Administration, the Interior Department says 14 species have been recovered from threatened species or endangered species lists. Seven others had been down listed from endangered to threatened, too. The Trump Administration says the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations only recovered six, eight and nine species in their first terms respectively.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.