Fish and Wildlife Service proposes de-listing; wildlife conservation advocates call for national wolf recovery plan
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — With more than 4,000 wolves roaming in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided the Great Lake population no longer needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
The agency is proposing to take the wolves off the endangered species list, but the populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan will be monitored for at least five years to ensure the species continues to thrive. If it appears, at any time, that the gray wolf cannot sustain itself without the protections of the ESA, the Service can initiate the listing process, including emergency listing.
Some wildlife conservation advocates say the decision premature, charging that wolves are still threatened by disease and human persecution.
The rule turns management of wolves over to state agencies that plan to drastically reduce wolf populations: Minnesota’s plan resurrects a version of the old bounty system by paying state-certified predator controllers $150 for each wolf killed. The Wisconsin plan seeks to reduce the state population by half to reach a target of 350 wolves. State agencies are expected to move quickly to open wolf hunting seasons across the Great Lakes region.
“Wolf recovery in the Midwest has been a tremendous success, but the job is far from complete,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The three Great Lakes states with wolves all plan to kill more wolves and to reduce populations through hunts and other means. Wolves remain threatened by human intolerance and persecution. More should be done to help people live with wolves and increase tolerance before protections are removed.”
But federal officials said the recovery shows that federal environmental laws can work as intended.
“Once again, the Endangered Species Act has proved to be an effective tool for bringing species back from the brink of extinction,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. “Thanks to the work of our scientists, wildlife managers, and our state, tribal, and stakeholder partners, gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region are now fully recovered and healthy.”
“Gray wolves are thriving in the Great Lakes region, and their successful recovery is a testament to the hard work of the Service and our state and local partners,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We are confident state and tribal wildlife managers in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will effectively manage healthy wolf populations now that federal protection is no longer needed.”
Wolf populations in the region have exceeded recovery goals. Minnesota’s population is estimated at 2,921 wolves, while an estimated 687 wolves live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and another 782 in Wisconsin. Each state has developed a plan to manage wolves after federal protection is removed.
The Service also previously proposed delisting gray wolves in all or parts of 29 states in the eastern half of the United States. The Service continues to evaluate that portion of the May 5, 2011, proposal and will make a final separate determination at a later date.
Gray wolves were originally listed as subspecies or as regional populations of subspecies in the lower 48 states and Mexico under the ESA in 1973 and its predecessor statutes before that. In 1978, the Service reclassified the gray wolf as an endangered species across all of the lower 48 states and Mexico, except in Minnesota where the gray wolf was classified as threatened.
The Center for Biological Diversity has called for a national plan that would provide a roadmap for recovering wolves in suitable habitat across the United States, including places within the Pacific Northwest and California, the deserts and canyons of the Colorado Plateau and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, and the Northeast.
“Wolves have been an integral part of North American landscapes for millions of years and are cherished, iconic animals that deserve a certain future in this country,” said Adkins Giese. “The Service should use its legal authority to chart a new course that focuses on national wolf recovery.”
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