Biodiversity: Scientists slam feds on possible wolf de-listing

Wolves are recovered in Yellowstone, but a possible plan to take them off the Endangered Species List is highly controversial. Photo courtesy Yellowstone NP.

Leaked plan doesn’t live up to intent of Endangered Species Act

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A group of prominent scientists with expertise in wolf biology is taking issue with a draft plan to take wolves off the Endangered Species List. The document was leaked a few weeks ago, eliciting widespread criticism from wildlife advocates.

Federal wildlife agencies are under intense pressure from states to turn over wolf management. Congress has already set the stage for political interference in the wolf recovery process, and that step has put the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service at the edge of a very slippery slope. Any proposal to de-list wolves is likely to face significant opposition and legal challenges from conservation advocates.

In their May 21 letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe, the scientists said the draft plan doesn’t reflect the best available wolf recovery  science and that it clashes with the fundamental purpose of the Endangered Species Act.

And they should know, since they are scientists responsible for much of the research referenced in the draft proposal.

Specifically, the letter says:

The gray wolf has barely begun to recover or is absent from significant portions of its former range where substantial suitable habitat remains. The Service’s draft rule fails to consider science identifying extensive suitable habitat in the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast. It also fails to consider the importance of these areas to the long-term survival and recovery of wolves, or the importance of wolves to the ecosystems of these regions.”

The scientists also took issue with the fact that the draft rule doesn’t delineate a specific area of protection for Mexican wolves, which would remain listed under the proposal.

The letter also criticizes the draft rule’s conclusion that wolves in the Pacific Northwest don’t qualify as a distinct population segment. The scientists pointed out that  genetic testing of gray wolves that have migrated naturally into the Pacific Northwest has established that some derive from British Columbia coastal wolf populations which are genetically distinct from the inland stock of wolves used as a source for reintroduction to the northern Rocky Mountains.

“Given the importance of wolves and the fact that they have only just begun to recover in some regions and not at all in others, we hope you will reconsider the Service’s proposal to remove protections across most of the United States,” the letter concludes.

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