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Defenders of Wildlife v. Secretary

ELR Citation: 35 ELR 20033
Nos. No. Civ. 03-1348-JO, (D. Or., 01/31/2005)

A district court enjoined and vacated a final U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rule that reduced protection afforded to the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by changing its status from "endangered" to "threatened" in some regions. The FWS' interpretation of "significant portion of its range" was not entitled to deference because it is contrary to the ESA and Ninth Circuit precedent. The FWS determined which areas were significant portions of the wolf's range solely in terms of the wolf's survival as a species. There is no difference between the danger of extinction throughout "all" and "a significant portion" of a species' range if "a significant portion of its range" is defined only in terms of the survival of the species. In addition, the FWS' extension of boundaries of only distinct population segments in which gray wolf populations had achieved recovery goals to encompass the wolf's entire historical range was arbitrary and capricious. Further, the FWS' downlisting of entire distinct population segments, without analyzing threats to the gray wolf outside of its current range, was inconsistent with the ESA and, thus, was arbitrary and capricious. However, the FWS' conservation program for the gray wolf satisfied its statutory duty to use all necessary measures to conserve endangered species.