State game commission to vote on listing in October
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — California biologists say that gray wolves in their state qualify for protection under the California Endangered Species Act, even though only one wolf — an immigrant from Oregon — is known to live there now.
Responding to a petition from wildlife conservation advocates, the California Department of Fish and Game last week recommended the endangered species status to the state’s fish and game commission, which will vote on the issue in October.
California is grappling with the issue against an interesting backdrop. A lone wolf that wandered from Oregon continues to roam the wild northeastern quadrant of the state, and wildlife advocates say there’s room for more. At the same time, the federal government is considering removing wolves from the endangered species list on other parts of the country.
As apex predators, wolves are crucial to maintaining ecosystem health from the top down. Though sometimes reviled by ranchers and hunters, wolf populations cull sick and weak prey animals and fundamentally alter ungulate behavior to the benefit of entire ecosystems.
Studies of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park show that they benefit pronghorn and foxes by controlling coyote populations; they help songbirds and beavers by dispersing browsing elk and allowing recovery of the streamside vegetation that songbirds and beavers need.
“We’re glad the Department of Fish and Game agrees that the gray wolf deserves consideration for protection under the California Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “California has hundreds of square miles of excellent wolf habitat, but if wolves in the state are going to increase from one to many, they need the protection of the California Endangered Species Act.”
“California needs a road map for recovering wolves,” said Greenwald. “Wolf populations in neighboring states will continue to expand, and more wolves will almost certainly show up in California. These wolves will need protection when they arrive.”
Between wolves crossing the border from Canada and efforts to reintroduce them into Yellowstone National Park, wolf populations have continued to grow in the northern Rocky Mountains and Oregon and Washington. The wolf known as OR-7, who arrived in California in December, came from a pack formed in 2008 when wolves moved from Idaho to the Wallowa Mountains in northeast Oregon.
“Wolves have been an integral part of North American landscapes, including that of California, for millions of years and are cherished, iconic animals that deserve a certain future,” said Greenwald. “The return of wolves to California will help restore the natural balance and reverse the historic wrong done by people who shot, poisoned and persecuted wolves into oblivion.”
The Center was joined in the petition by Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. For more information, see: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/wolves_on_the_west_coast/index.html.