Eight groups representing some 200 Native American tribes asked U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Tuesday to immediately relist wolves as an endangered species across most of the U.S., saying several states have been too aggressive in hunting and trapping the animal.
The groups want swift action to restore wolf protections that were removed by the Trump administration in January when wolf management was given back to individual states and tribes.
The request claims states have shown they can’t be trusted to keep wolves from falling back to critically low numbers.
“Given the immediate threat facing the gray wolf as the result of states enacting anti-wolf policies that present a real potential of decimating wolf populations, we write to desperately urge you to immediately act upon the emergency petition … to relist the gray wolf as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act,” the letter noted. “Just as important, we also call on you to exercise existing authority to list the gray wolf as such on an emergency basis.”
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Emergency listing is a temporary measure that ensures immediate protection and expires 240 days following the publication date.
"This 240-day pause will allow the federal government to engage in proper and meaningful consultation with tribes,’’ the letter notes.
Only one Wisconsin tribe, the Oneida Nation, is listed on the letter. No Minnesota tribes are listed.
Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, is the first Native American to lead a U.S. cabinet agency.
The Biden administration in August decided not to undo the action by the Trump administration that ended federal wolf protections. Many farming and hunting groups say delisting was long overdue and that wolf numbers needed to be trimmed to avoid conflicts with pets and livestock.
But wolf supporters say the states have been too aggressive in culling wolves. That includes Wisconsin, where a November hunt has been scheduled to take up to 300 wolves less than nine months after the state’s unusual February wolf season, when hunters and trappers killed 216 wolves in less than three days, 82% above the quota of 119 wolves set by the DNR.
That total harvest during the February court-ordered wolf season means hunters and trappers killed nearly 20% of Wisconsin's estimated total wolf population of about 1,100 in less than 72 hours. Montana and Idaho also have aggressive wolf-killing policies. Minnesota so far has delayed any action on wolf hunting or trapping until at least 2022.
The letter claims the federal government has ignored its duties on treaties signed with the various Native American nations.
“Had either the Trump or Biden administrations consulted tribal nations, as treaty and trust responsibilities require, they would have heard that as a sacred creature, the wolf is an integral part of the land-based identity that shapes our communities, beliefs, customs and traditions,” the letter said. “The land, and all that it contains, is our temple. … The delisting of the gray wolf without tribal consultation is a stain that we are certain you don’t want to preserve under your leadership. ”
The groups include the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, the Association on American Indian Affairs, the Navajo Nation, the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, the Native Justice Coalition, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.
Meanwhile, lawsuits filed by wolf supporters and environmental groups challenging the wolf delisting are set to be heard in federal court hearing in California in November.