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Editorial: After Years of Progress, a Setback in Saving the Wolf

The New York Times, June 1, 2013  (posted 06/02/13) - YOUR LETTERS ARE NEEDED

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The 1973 Endangered Species Act provides federal protection — breathing space, in a very real sense — to plants and animals threatened with extinction. Had this task been left to the states alone, almost none of the species that have returned to health would have done so.

But the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service now plans to remove wolves from the endangered list in all 48 contiguous states and transfer control over their fate to the states. This may save the department from running battles with Congress, state officials and hunters about protecting the wolf. Whether it will save the animal is another matter.

Thanks entirely to federal protections, wolves have rebounded remarkably in some places. There are now about 4,000 in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and 1,600 or so more in the Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Interior has gradually delisted the wolves in all these places because, it says, their numbers are enough to guarantee survival. And it is not necessary to their survival, the service says, to protect wolves elsewhere.

But many scientists argue, persuasively, that these delistings are premature — that the service is giving up on recovery before the job is done. For one thing, they note a 7 percent decline in Rocky Mountain wolves since they were delisted and controlled hunts were authorized. They also note that other recovered species — notably the bald eagle and the American alligator — were allowed to expand into much of their historical range before they were removed from the list.

The historical range of the wolf is nearly the whole contiguous United States. There is suitable habitat all across the West still unoccupied by wolves, including the Pacific Northwest, Northern California and Colorado. A recovering wolf population isn’t static. It spreads as wolves rebound. The northern Rockies and the upper Midwest are proof of that. Can wolves recover suitable parts of their historical range without federal protection? The answer is almost certainly no.

Interior’s plan has little to do with science and everything to do with politics. Congress bludgeoned President Obama’s first interior secretary, Ken Salazar, into delisting the Rocky Mountain wolf. But there is no reason his successor, Sally Jewell, has to accept a plan to delist the wolves everywhere. It is hard enough to protect species that occupy hidden ecological niches. Politics has made it harder still to protect an intelligent, adaptive predator living openly in the wild.

This editorial appeared in The New York Times on June 1, 2013

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Our lands need wolves. But wolves need protection to recover.


Thousands have called and written letters in support of keeping Endangered Species protections for wolves, including letters from prominent biologists, the American Society of Mammalogists, and Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva.

Act now: Urge Interior Secretary Jewell and your members of Congress to stop this plan to prematurely delist wolves throughout the lower 48 states!

You can find contact info for your members of Congress here.

Please also call Secretary Jewell at the Interior Department: (202) 208-3100 or send her an email at feedback@ios.doi.gov, or on the Department of Interior’s website.

Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points


Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these.

Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you. If you’re a grandmother wanting your grandchildren to have the opportunity to hear wolves in the wild, or a hunter who recognizes that wolves make game herds healthier, or a businessperson who knows that wolves have brought millions in ecotourism dollars to Yellowstone, say so.

Point out that the scientists whose research is referenced in the draft rule to remove the gray wolves' protections have stated in a recent letter that the science does not support the delisting.

Express your support for relisting Mexican wolves as an endangered subspecies and point out that delisting gray wolves throughout the U.S. is counter to protecting Mexican wolves. Fewer than 80 Mexican gray wolves exist in the wild. New populations of these wolves are desperately needed for them to thrive. But the draft plan would leave gray wolves unprotected in places where this endangered subspecies could and should live. This will make protection of Mexican gray wolves much more difficult should they expand into Utah or Colorado and make it unlikely that any wolves will be able to naturally reestablish a presence in the Southern Rockies, a region with excellent suitable habitat where wolves were once found.

Stress that the majority of Arizona and New Mexico residents support wolves and understand their importance.  Polling done by Research and Polling, Inc. found 77 percent of Arizona respondents and 69% of NM respondents support the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves. The poll also showed strong majority support for giving wolves greater protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Describe the ecological benefits of wolves to entire ecosystems and all wildlife
. Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters. Science has repeatedly demonstrated that wolves are keystone carnivores who help to keep wildlife like elk and deer healthy and bring balance to the lands they inhabit.

Thank you for taking action today for wolves!
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