Letter asks U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep protection in place
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Two leading congressional Democrats are leading an effort to maintain protection for wolves across the United States.
Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), along with 52 House members this week sent a letter to the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging an about-face on the agency’s anticipated proposal to remove federal protections for wolves across most of the lower 48 United States.
Wolf populations have recovered in places like the northern Rockies, but those areas only cover about 5 percent of the species’ original range. Before they were exterminated by humans, an estimated 2 million wolves roamed across most of the U.S.
Under the current plan to take wolves off the endangered species list, they might never regain a foothold in places like Colorado, where there’s plenty of good habitat and where wolves could benefit ecosystems like Rocky Mountain National Park.
“We are grateful that these 52 representatives are standing strong for continued federal protections for wolves,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With wolves only just beginning to recover in the Pacific Northwest, California, southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast, now’s not the time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to turn its back on wolf recovery.”
“The job of wolf recovery is far from over and the members of Congress who have written to the Service are asking that science, not politics, guide federal wolf management,” said Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands. “Maintaining federal protections is critical in allowing wolves to assume their valuable ecological role across the American landscape.”
Since the original wolf recovery plans were written in the 1980s, scientists have learned much more about wolves’ behavior, ecology and needs. Research has shown that returning wolves to ecosystems sets off a chain of events that benefits many species, including songbirds and beavers that gain from a return of streamside vegetation, which thrives in the absence of browsing elk that must move more often to avoid wolves.
Pronghorn and foxes are also aided by wolves’ control of coyote populations. Protecting ecosystems upon which species depend is a specific goal of the Endangered Species Act — all the more reason for expanded, rather than diminished, wolf recovery efforts.
Conservation advocates say politics, rather than science, is the driving force behind the move to end federal wolf protection and recovery efforts. For now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has no plans for wolf recovery in areas beyond those regions it has deemed recovered (the northern Rockies and western Great Lakes).
In states where federal delisting has occurred, there are insufficient protections from local pressures to hunt or “control” wolves back to the brink of extinction. In the 18 months since federal delisting began in 2011, more than 1,700 of the 5,000-6,000 recovered wolves in the lower 48 have been killed.
Conservation organizations are hopeful that Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewell will be a stronger advocate for wolves than outgoing Secretary Ken Salazar, who never called for comprehensive gray wolf recovery across the country.
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment Tagged: | Center for Biological Diversity, Ed Markey, endangered species, endangered species act, Gray Wolf, Peter DeFazio, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wolves