While nearly hunted to extinction in the early twentieth century, the gray wolf population is now thriving. In fact, a 2018 survey performed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources put Minnesota's gray wolf population at 2,655 wolves, a twenty-five percent increase from 2017 and well above the state's minimum goal of 1,600.
The Obama Administration's Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined the gray wolf no longer warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In reference to the gray wolf's successful recovery, President Obama's appointee to lead the service, Director Dan Ashe stated, "an exhaustive review of the latest scientific information and taxonomic information shows that we have accomplished that goal."
Despite its evident recovery, the gray wolf remains listed thanks to an activist judge who lives on the East coast, hundreds of miles away from gray wolf territory. This ruling means the gray wolf can only be killed if it threatens a human life, leaving Minnesota families and farmers with no legal option to protect their pets or livestock should they be attacked.
In northeastern Minnesota, this species' dramatic rise has meant increased contact with big game herds, livestock, and even family pets. Just last month, two gray wolves attacked a Labrador retriever within Duluth city limits while its owner was just feet away. Family farmers are continually losing cattle and are not always able to obtain financial recourse. Deer hunters are concerned about declining deer herds while reports of wolves killing moose calves are on the rise.
The purpose of the Endangered Species Act was never to permanently list a species. In fact, manipulating the legal system to evade a process that is based on science is an abuse of this law and a disservice to our citizens and our wildlife.
Moving the federal government out of the way and empowering our state agencies to responsibly manage our gray wolf populations is long overdue. I am confident the hardworking individuals at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources know more than Washington bureaucrats about tailoring a management plan that meets all of our state's needs and circumstances.
Minnesotans treasure wildlife. While we celebrate the return of the gray wolf, it is also our right to ensure its population is properly managed. Therefore, I am grateful to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the USFWS for choosing to host a public forum this week in Brainerd on the Trump Administration's recent proposal to delist the gray wolf.
No one knows this issue better than those living in northern Minnesota, so it is imperative that the folks who live in Brainerd and the surrounding communities have a voice in this important discussion. I will work hard to ensure our voices are heard and will continue to support the delisting of the gray wolf in Congress.