This week a federal court in Washington, D.C. found that endangered species protections for wolves in Wyoming should never have been removed. Given that Wyoming designates wolves as predatory animals that can be shot on sight across 80 percent of the state, the court got it exactly right.
Ever since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana in 2011 and Wyoming in 2012, the states have pursued aggressive anti-wolf policies that allow excessive hunting and trapping designed to drastically reduce populations. Idaho, for example, passed legislation this year that created a wolf control board with the sole purpose of killing more wolves and appropriated $400,000 dollars to get the job done.
These policies in turn have fostered anti-wolf prejudices that have led to a disturbing stream of images of men in white hoods posing with recently killed wolves, of a trapper smiling in front of a still live, trapped wolf surrounded by blood, and most recently of a dead wolf on the road killed by a known anti-wolf activist, who bragged of intentionally running down two wolves with his car.
The Endangered Species Act was passed, in part, on the recognition that states were not doing enough to ensure the survival of wildlife. And it is still needed today to protect wolves and other vulnerable animals from state policies that are often driven by the livestock and sport-hunting industries, politics and prejudicial hatred rather than sound science and compassion.
Instead, the Fish and Wildlife Service has done its utmost to remove federal endangered species protections and hand management over to states like Wyoming and Idaho that are obviously hostile to wolf conservation. Indeed, the agency currently has a proposal out to remove protections for wolves across most of the lower 48 states.
It will also no doubt move quickly to try and work with Wyoming to minimally patch the holes identified by the court and quickly hand management of wolves back to the state.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Tracking a trend of a growing circle of compassion towards others not like ourselves -- both people and animals -- polls consistently show that a majority of Americans support recovery of wolves and recognize that wolves are a vital part of the North American landscape.
Over 1.5 million people submitted comments in opposition to the proposal to remove federal protections for wolves -- the most ever submitted on an endangered species issue.
What is needed now is for Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and President Obama to listen to the American public, as well as the nation's leading scientists, and maintain endangered species protections for wolves until states like Wyoming enact regulations that truly ensure the survival and recovery of wolves to the many areas that are still wild enough to support them.