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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Gray Wolf and the Endangered Species Act: A Brief Legal History

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

The wolf had all but disappeared from the lower 48 states when the Endangered Species Act (ESA) put it on its first list of protected species in 1973. Since then, the gray wolf (Canis lupus) has held every status of protection under the ESA at one time or another, in one place or another. Regulatory efforts have switched from increasing protections of the wolf—culminating in the reintroduction of wolves into three parts of the American West in the 1990s—to reducing protection of the wolf where its population has surged. Litigation has marked each step of the way. Where litigation and regulation have not succeeded, legislation has been tried. P.L. 112-10, § 1713, marks the first legislative delisting in the history of the ESA, removing federal protection of the gray wolf in Montana, Idaho, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and north-central Utah.

Two other changes to wolf protection are on the horizon. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it would recognize a new species of wolf in the lower 48 states, the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon). It is possible that the eastern wolf will become listed under the ESA. Additionally, FWS announced plans to delist gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes area.

This report is a companion report to CRS Report RL34238, Gray Wolves Under the Endangered Species Act: Distinct Population Segments and Experimental Populations. It is intended to provide a brief history of the laws, regulations, and lawsuits related to the wolf’s protected status. Fuller analyses of the concepts discussed in this report can be found in that longer report.

Date of Report: April 21, 2011
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R41730
Price: $29.95

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