The image of the government declaring "Mission Accomplished" is etched in Americans’ minds, and not in a good way. Just as former President George W. Bush was wrong when he made that announcement about the Iraq war, the feds might well be wrong in declaring the gray wolf no longer in need of protection in the West.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the mission of recovering populations of the gray wolf, which once roamed throughout the United States, has been successful, and the top predator can now fend for himself. Considering that the illogical and irrational attitudes toward the wolf that resulted in its extermination in the West nearly a century ago remain, the agency may be acting too soon.
The FWS has concluded the current number of gray wolves in the lower 48 states no longer qualifies it for listing under the Endangered Species Act, but rightly recommended the Mexican gray wolf remain listed as an endangered subspecies.
The FWS will open a 90-day comment period on the proposal to seek additional scientific, commercial and technical information. [Click here to submit comments - see talking points below.]
Advocates for delisting the wolf say management decisions should be made at the state level, not by federal agencies, now that the reintroduction process is complete. The problem with state-level decisions is that in the minds of many officials, "management" of the wolf is synonymous with "eradicating" the animal. For example, Wyoming’s proposed management plan essentially allowed anyone to shoot any wolf on sight for any reason. That’s not management.
Maintaining wildlife populations for human hunters and protecting livestock are the primary objectives of most local officials and ranchers, who still see the wolf as, at best, an unnecessary nuisance, and, at worst, an evil demon bent on wiping out whole herds of cattle and sheep. In reality, wolves improve the ecosystems they share with elk, moose and deer, as scientific research has shown in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem since their reintroduction.
Ranchers are compensated for livestock predation by wolves under the Endangered Species Act. Will that compensation be continued if the predators are delisted? If not, and even in some cases if so, it will be open season on wolves wherever livestock graze.
The recovery of the gray wolf in the West is a dramatic success story. When the animal is delisted as an endangered species, the federal government should continue to monitor its management by states, or it could disappear once again.
This article was published by the Salt Lake Tribune.
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Also, submit comments to Fish and Wildlife Services here.
Please submit a letter to the editor expressing
support for Mexican gray wolves!
The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers.
Some talking points for your letter are below-remember that it will be most effective written in your own words, from your own experience. Your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
Start by thanking the paper for the story. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
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.
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Photo credit: Amber Legras