Our goal is to restore gray wolves in the wild throughout the lower 48 states, but especially in Washington, Oregon, and California. We work to develop sound public policy that supports and encourages the return of gray wolves. We partner with conservation groups across the Northwest and work with state and federal officials to achieve this goal.
The last known wolf den in Yellowstone—prior to the wolf’s recent comeback—was destroyed in 1923. By the 1940s, the animals were extinct in the northern Rocky Mountains—shot, trapped, or poisoned. (A few hundred remained in the U.S., mostly in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.) Then, at the dawn of the modern conservation movement the wolf emerged as a symbol of the nation’s vanishing wild heritage. It was among the first animals protected under the 1973 Endangered Species Act.
However, a loophole in the wolves’ endangered species protection authorizes U.S. wildlife officials to kill wolves that prey on livestock on federal land and permits landowners to do the same on their property. Thus, the most common cause of death for wolves is conflict with people over livestock losses. Another serious threat is habitat loss.
Most recently, the Trump administration stripped gray wolves of endangered species protection throughout the contiguous 48 states. The Trump U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that because wolf populations have increased in Great Lakes states, it does not matter they are not recovered in the West. The Endangered Species Act demands more than that, and we’re representing a large coalition of Western organizations to restore gray wolf protections until the iconic species truly recovers.
Mexican Gray Wolf
The Western Environmental Law Center has fought to protect the Mexican wolf for decades: playing a key role in the initial reintroduction effort. We successfully challenged an overzealous agency policy of lethally removing wolves from the wild following depredations on livestock, and continue to defend the reintroduction program against industry legal challenges.
Our goal is to achieve full recovery of these wolves in the wild. We are working to preserve the victories we accomplished and are partnering with a coalition of Mexican wolf advocates to realize this goal.
The Mexican gray wolf, or “lobo,” is the smallest of North American gray wolves and the southernmost subspecies of what was historically the widest ranging of North American mammals. The current population is about 97 wolves in the wild.
The Mexican gray wolf historically ranged in deserts, forests, and grasslands throughout much of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas southward into large portions of northern and central Mexico. By the 1970s, they had been all but eliminated from the wild.