Defenders of Wildlife v. Salazar: Delisting the Children of the Night in the Northern Rocky Mountains

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The return of the children of the night to the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) has been controversial. Wolves were reintroduced into the NRM as non-essential experimental population pursuant to section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Litigation brought by the livestock industry to stop the reintroduction was unsuccessful. Wolves prospered in the region. The Bush administration attempted to downlist wolves in the NRM by creating a large Western Distinct Population Segment (DPS), which included areas in the wolf's historic range where there were no wolves. The Bush administration's effort to downlist phantom wolves was defeated. The Bush administration created a smaller NRM DPS and attempted to delist wolves. In 2008, the federal district court in Defenders of Wildlife (DOW) v. Hall stopped this effort. The court found that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner for several reasons: first, there was no connectivity between the wolf populations in the region, which the FWS asserted was essential; second, the FWS approved the 2007 Wyoming wolf management plan, which contained the same flaws as the 2003 plan rejected by the FWS5 The Obama administration continued the effort by delisting the wolves in central Idaho and northwest Montana, but retained the threatened species status for the wolves in Wyoming because of ongoing problems with Wyoming's wolf management plan. Environmental groups brought suit in 2009, DOW v. Salazar, challenging the FWS action, which is currently underway.

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