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Gray wolves across much of the U.S., including in Minnesota, have regained the federal protections that had been stripped away by the Trump Administration nearly two years ago.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, in a ruling Thursday, said the 2020 decision to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list had "serious" deficiencies, as it failed to properly account for the “significant portion of its range" standard. White's ruling immediately restores federal protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes region, along the West Coast and in the southern Rocky Mountains.

Earthjustice brought the lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of the Interior on behalf of a collection of environmental and conservation groups. The suit argued the decision to delist gray wolves ignored science and would push the species back toward the brink of extinction.

“Today’s ruling is a significant victory for gray wolves and for all those who value nature and the public’s role in protecting these amazing creatures,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, CEO and president at Defenders of Wildlife, in a news release. “Restoring federal protections means that these vitally important animals will receive the necessary support to recover and thrive in the years ahead.”

After the protections had been lifted, states were tasked with managing wolf populations themselves. Wisconsin wildlife officials came under fire  after allowing a wolf hunt in early 2021 — during which hunters killed 218 wolves, exceeding the 119-wolf quota. That amounted to about one-third of the state's wolf population, National Geographic reported.

In Minnesota, the state had not yet OK'd a gray wolf hunt despite discussions about a management plan.

Thursday's ruling will, for now, block future hunts and trapping in most states. It does not affect state-managed hunts in the northern Rocky Mountains (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) as protections there were removed in an earlier decision.

Gray wolves are considered a keystone species, meaning one that many other plants and animals depend on for survival.

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