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In the News: Plan Lifts Lower 48 Wolf Protections

Associated Press, June 7, 2013  (posted 06/07/13) Act Now!

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The Obama administration on Friday will propose lifting most of the remaining federal protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move that would end four decades of recovery efforts but has been criticized by some scientists as premature.

With more than 6,100 wolves roaming the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe told The Associated Press that a species persecuted to near-extermination last century has successfully rebounded.

But prominent scientists and dozens of lawmakers in Congress want more. They say wolves need to be shielded so they can expand beyond the portions of 10 states they now occupy.

The animal's historical range stretched across most of North America. Under the administration's plan, federal protections would remain only for a fledgling population of Mexican gray wolves in the desert Southwest. The proposal will be subject to a public comment period and a final decision made within a year.

While the wolf's recent resurgence is likely to continue at some level elsewhere — multiple packs roam portions of Washington and Oregon, and individual wolves have been spotted in Colorado, Utah and the Northeast — Ashe indicated it's unrealistic to think the clock can be turned back entirely.

"Science is an important part of this decision, but really the key is the policy question of when is a species recovered," he said. "Does the wolf have to occupy all the habitat that is available to it in order for it to be recovered? Our answer to that question is no."

Hunters and trappers already are targeting the predators in states where protections previously were lifted. They've killed some 1,600 wolves in the past several years in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

... Supporters say lifting protections elsewhere will help avoid the animosity seen among many ranchers in the West, who long complained that their hands were tied by rules restricting when wolves could be killed.

Yet vast additional territory that researchers say is suitable for wolves remains unoccupied. That includes parts of the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rocky Mountains and northern New England.

Colorado alone has enough space to support up to 1,000 wolves, according to Carlos Carroll of California's Klamath Center for Conservation Research. He suggested wildlife officials were bowing to political pressure, exerted by elected officials across the West who pushed to limit the wolf's range.

"They've tried to devise their political position first, and then cherry-pick their science to support it," Carroll said of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Environmental groups have vowed to challenge the government in court if it takes the animals off the endangered species list as planned.

Ashe said Friday's proposal had been reviewed by top administration officials, including new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. But he dismissed any claims of interference and said the work that went into the plan was exclusively that of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

He said the agency wants to focus future recovery efforts on a small number of wolves belonging to a subspecies, the Mexican gray wolf. Those occur in Arizona and New Mexico, where a protracted and costly reintroduction plan has stumbled in part due to illegal killings.

The agency is calling for a tenfold increase in the territory where biologists are working to rebuild that population, which now numbers 73 animals. Law enforcement efforts to ward off poaching in the region would be bolstered.

Although wolves roam only a small portion of their historical range, it's about 80 percent of the area they realistically could be expected to occupy today, said David Mech, a leading wolf expert and senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Paul, Minn.

The primary barrier to expansion isn't lack of habitat or prey, but human intolerance, he said.


Even without federal protection, wolves are likely to migrate into several Western states, Mech said.

Sections of Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Northern California might have enough habitat, prey and isolation from humans for wolves to thrive, he said. But he added that might not happen if hunters kill so many Northern Rockies wolves that it reduces the number that would disperse from packs and seek new turf.

This article appeared on ABC News online.


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. Now it's your turn!


ACT NOW
Contact Interior Secretary Jewell - tell her to stop this plan to prematurely delist wolves throughout the lower 48 states!

Phone : (202) 208-3100
Email : feedback@ios.doi.gov
Department of Interior’s website


Also contact your members of Congress and ask them to use
their influence to stop this plan to prematurely delist wolves
throughout the lower 48 states!


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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Photo credit: Amber Legras