Gray Wolves Relisted; Polar Bears Left Out in the Cold

To the disappointment of many, the Obama administration failed to rescind two decisions made under the Bush administration that will negatively impact gray wolves and polar bears.

The gray wolf was added to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 35 years ago, enabling it to survive after being nearly eradicated in many U.S. states as a result of overhunting. On May 4, however, the species was officially removed from listing under the ESA in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon and parts of Utah, remaining on the list solely in Wyoming. In June, various conservation organizations filed multiple lawsuits, which challenge the premature decision to delist gray wolves and claim that the states have yet to produce sound management plans to ensure the species’ long-term survival.

After settling with five environmental and animal protection groups later that month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) relisted the gray wolves of the western Great Lakes region under the ESA. Should the FWS attempt to delist the wolves in the future, they will need to provide an opportunity for public comment. The relisting of gray wolves in other regions, however, remains on the table.

A Bush-era "special rule" that prohibits the regulation of activities threatening polar bears, should they occur outside the Arctic, was also maintained by the Obama administration. The biggest threat to polar bears today is melting sea ice, due to climate change from greenhouse gas emissions that occur outside the endangered bears’ environment.