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PEER Press Release: Wolf Delisting Scientific Shell Game Begins

Contract for Quick Limited Peer Review Designed to Give Illusion of Impartiality (posted 7/12/13)

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For Immediate Release: Jul 09, 2013
Media Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Washington, DC — The plan to remove federal protections from the gray wolf will be peer reviewed on an accelerated schedule by a private consulting firm selected this week, according to a document posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The exercise is designed to help the plan to delist the gray wolf under the federal Endangered Species Act withstand expected legal challenges.

The contract Order Statement of Work (SOW), issued June 25, 2013, calls for “a formal, external, independent scientific peer review before a final determination is made” to end safeguards for remaining gray wolf populations. Yet the specifics of the SOW raise questions as to its independence:

  • The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) controls selection of reviewers by picking from a list compiled by the contractor. The ultimate number of reviewers will be left to FWS “discretion”;
  • Expert reviewers are disqualified if they have “an affiliation with an advocacy position regarding the protection of this species.” This standard bars every scientist who has ever opined about wolf recovery, leaving only those who may not be knowledgeable enough to venture an opinion; and
  • Reviewers are directed “not to provide advice on policy” questions and limit themselves to the quality of the information cited by FWS.
“This quickie, consultant-led peer review gives the illusion of impartiality from the bankrolling agency which can easily manipulate its results,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “If the Fish & Wildlife Service wanted a truly independent peer review on a topic of this magnitude it would have invited one of the scientific societies to conduct it, free from agency restrictions.”

The peer reviews must be completed by September 11th, the date on which the public comment period for the proposed delisting ends. Since the peer reviewers will not be provided with the public comments, many of which may arrive on the scheduled peer review completion date, the peer review will not examine, let alone respond to, criticisms levels by scientific experts. Nor has FWS responded to a May 21st letter from 16 of the nation’s top wolf experts expressing “deep concerns” about its delisting proposal.

Significantly, the Service is seeking peer review only after its delisting plan was formally unveiled in the Federal Register on an apparent fast-track to finalization. Further, in the unlikely event that the peer reviewers pan the delisting plan, FWS is not obligated to withdraw or alter its plan to answer criticisms.

“Contrary to the fiction that its plan is science-driven, the Service’s proposed final rule matches the political promises made to state game agencies and mirrors the negotiated preferred outcome,” added Ruch, pointing to records from “Structured Decision Making” meetings between the Service and state game agencies, which PEER obtained from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. “The Service hopes to deodorize this day-old fish by wrapping it in new consultant reviews.”

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Read the SOW
See how politics, not science, drove gray wolf delisting
View top experts’ critique of delisting plan
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Please act today to save wolves!

Two proposals important to the future of Mexican gray wolves have been released. Please comment on both:

The first would strip Endangered Species Act protections from all gray wolves except Mexican gray wolves and would leave Mexican wolves unable to establish new populations in additional areas like Colorado and Utah. To comment on this rule, click here.

Points to include:

Delisting gray wolves throughout the lower 48 is premature and unsupported by science. The very scientists whose research is referenced in the draft rule to remove the gray wolves' protections have stated that the science does not support the delisting.

A change that allows new Mexican wolves to be released directly into New Mexico instead of limiting new releases to Arizona is  long overdue. This will remove obstacles to getting new wolves and healthier genetics in the wild, where they are desperately needed.

Wolves don’t read maps. Mexican gray wolves should have the freedom to roam and boundaries on their movements should be eliminated.

The Fish and Wildlife Service should complete the Mexican gray wolf Recovery Plan
; without a valid recovery plan, the agency is making important decisions without a road map.

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.

The second would do one good thing and many bad things. Submit your comments here.

Points to include are:

I support  allowing direct releases of Mexican wolves into parts of New Mexico and additional areas in Arizona.
This change has been recommended by experts for over 10 years and can be made faster and with less bureaucratic delay than any other part of the proposed rule.

The USFWS should put the rest of this proposed rule on hold and SPEED UP APPROVAL FOR MORE DIRECT RELEASES


I do not support designating Mexican wolves in the wild as “non-essential, experimental.”
By labeling all of the wild wolves as “nonessential” the USFWS ignores science and the reality of 15 years of experience with reintroducing wolves. When the current rule declared wolves in the wild “nonessential” there were only 11 wolves, recently released from a captive breeding program and they made up only 7% of all Mexican wolves in the world. Now the 75 wolves in the wild have up to four generations of experience in establishing packs and raising pups and are over 22% of all of the Mexican wolves in the world. After four more generations of captive breeding with few releases (only one in the last five years), scientists warn that there may be serious genetic problems making captive wolves less able to thrive in the wild

THE FOURTH GENERATION WILD LOBOS ARE NOT EXPENDABLE AND ARE AN ESSENTIAL PART OF RECOVERING THIS UNIQUE SUBSPECIES OF WOLF

The proposed rule puts the cart before the horse and should come with or after – not before – an updated recovery plan.
USFWS admits that their present, typewritten, 1982 recovery plan is not scientifically sound and does not meet current legal requirements – yet in its proposed rule USFWS continues to emphasize a woefully inadequate population of only 100 wolves in the wild. When USFWS published the current rule in 1998 they said they expected to put out a new recovery plan for the public to comment on later that year; 15 years later, there still is no scientific or legally adequate recovery plan!

The USFWS needs to QUIT STALLING AND COMPLETE A COMPREHENSIVE RECOVERY PLAN – AND LET THE PUBLIC SEE IT – BEFORE DOING ANY TINKERING WITH THE CURRENT RULE (except for allowing wolves to be reintroduced into additional suitable places)

Thank you for giving the wolves a voice!!
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