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Humane Society of the United States v. Jewell

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20274
Nos. 1:13-cv-00186-BAH, (D.D.C., 12/19/2014) (Howell, J.)

A district court, in a 100+-page opinion, vacated an FWS rule removing the western Great Lakes distinct population segment (DPS) of gray wolves from the ESA’s list of protected species and ordered the agency to reinstate immediately the protections for gray wolves in the affected area as these protections existed prior to the rule's effective date. In the final rule, FWS designated and delisted the western Great Lakes DPS simultaneously. But the structure, history, and purpose of the ESA do not permit the designation of a DPS for the purpose of delisting the vertebrates that are members of the DPS. Nor does the ESA allow the designation of a DPS made up of vertebrates already protected under the ESA at a more general taxonomic level. Because there is no authority in the ESA for the FWS to delist a DPS simultaneous to its recognition and listing, the agency's interpretation of the Act is unreasonable and not entitled to deference. In addition, FWS' delisting of the western Great Lakes DPS was based on insufficient explanation and was contrary to the evidence before the agency. The court therefore vacated the rule and ordered the immediate restoration of the gray wolf’s protected status in the western Great Lakes DPS. While some disruption is inevitable as a result of vacating the challenged rule and restoring protections to the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes, such disruption is not so substantial as to outweigh FWS' serious substantive errors.