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Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic


Protecting the Gray Wolf in the Northeast

The gray wolf once roamed across the entire North American continent, including the northeastern United States. Extirpation of the wolf in the late 1800s removed the top predator from an ecosystem that features ample populations of moose and deer. Biologists believe that restoration of the wolf will help control the populations of these large browsing animals and provide other ecological benefits. In 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reclassified the gray wolf from endangered to threatened in the Northeast and eliminated the proposed Northeast Distinct Population Segment, virtually terminating any gray wolf recovery efforts in the region. The National Wildlife Federation, the Vermont Natural Resources Council, the Maine Audubon Society, and the Maine Wolf Coalition alleged various violations of the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, stemming from the federal government’s Final Rule to Reclassify the Gray Wolf. Students worked with the clinic faculty to develop the facts and arguments to successfully challenge the reclassification rule.

On August 19, 2005, the U.S. District Court for Vermont invalidated the rule and remanded it to the FWS for reconsideration (National Wildlife Federation v. Norton, 386 F. Supp.2d 553 (D.Vt. 2005)).

“National Wildlife Federation’s ground-breaking lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service challenged the attempt of the Bush Administration to walk away from a multi-year effort to restore the endangered gray wolf in the Northeast. It would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of our partners at Vermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic.”

Peggy Struhsacker
National Wolf Coordinator
National Wildlife Federation