Eastern District of NC Court Rules for Rare Wild Red Wolves, against USFWS

Red wolf puppy. Photo: Ryan Nordsven/USFWS
Red wolf puppy. Photo: Ryan Nordsven/USFWS

US Fish and Wildlife Service Must Resume Release of Captive Wolves into Wild

The US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled (read PDF) in a case brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center that the US Fish and Wildlife Service must develop a plan by March 1, 2021, to resume its longstanding and successful practice of releasing captive red wolves into the Red Wolf Recovery Area in North Carolina. The case was brought on behalf of the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Welfare Institute. The court order temporarily prohibits the agency from implementing its recent policy change barring release of captive wolves into the wild. As few as seven red wolves remain in the wild today.

On November 16, 2020, the Southern Environmental Law Center sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina for violations of the Endangered Species Act caused by new, illegal agency policies that bar the use of proven management measures to save wild red wolves on behalf of Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Welfare Institute. It filed for a motion for preliminary injunction (read PDF) in the case on November 19, 2020.

Comments from the groups in court to save the wild red wolves follow.

“With only seven known red wolves left in the wild, it is past time for Fish and Wildlife Service to resume conservation measures that it used successfully for decades,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents the conservation organizations in court. “The court was clear that the agency has to stop managing red wolves into extinction and instead take meaningful action to rebuild the wild red wolf population in North Carolina.”

“We are grateful that the US Fish and Wildlife Service will finally abide by its responsibility to protect this critically endangered wolf,” said Ben Prater, Southeast program director at Defenders of Wildlife. “Releasing wolves into the wild is a common sense, science-backed approach to boost this population and stave off the red wolf’s extinction. While the species has a long way to go, this is a major step in the right direction.”

“This is a vital ruling that will breathe new life into the Red Wolf Recovery Program,” said Johanna Hamburger, director and senior staff attorney for AWI’s terrestrial wildlife program. “The Court held that the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s passive efforts to manage the wild red wolf population are woefully inadequate to recover the species. By ordering the agency to once again release wolves from captivity into the wild population, the Court is requiring much-needed action to prevent the continued downward spiral of this species.”

“The Red Wolf Coalition is grateful that the court saw the importance of releasing captive red wolves to the wild population,” said Kim Wheeler, Executive Director of Red Wolf Coalition. “These additional red wolves will add genetic diversity and breeding opportunities to the wild population in northeastern North Carolina.”

The Red Wolf Coalition (www.redwolves.com) advocates for the long-term survival of red wolf populations by teaching about the red wolf and by fostering public involvement in red wolf conservation.

The Animal Welfare Institute (www.awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere – in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. Visit www.defenders.org.

For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. Visit www.SouthernEnvironment.org.

 

Source: Southern Environmental Law Center

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