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In the News: U.S. Plans To Drop Gray Wolves From Endangered List

Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2013  (posted 04/26/13)

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The planned ruling would eliminate protection for the top predators, but scientists and conservationists say the proposal is flawed.

Federal authorities intend to remove endangered species protections for all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states, carving out an a exception for a small pocket of about 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, according to a draft document obtained by The Times.

The sweeping rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would eliminate protection for wolves 18 years after the government reestablished the predators in the West, where they had been hunted to extinction. Their reintroduction was a success, with the population growing to the thousands.

But their presence has always drawn protests across the Intermountain West from state officials, hunters and ranchers who lost livestock to the wolves. They have lobbied to remove the gray wolf from the endangered list.

Once those protections end, the fate of wolves is left to individual states. The species is only beginning to recover in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. California is considering imposing its own protections after the discovery of a lone male that wandered into the state's northern counties from Oregon two years ago.

The species has flourished elsewhere, however, and the government ended endangered status for the gray wolf in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions last year.

Mike Jimenez, who manages wolves in the northern Rockies for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said delisting in that region underscored a "huge success story." He said that while wolves are now legally hunted in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the federal agency continues to monitor pack populations and can reinstate protections should numbers reach levels that biologists consider to be dangerously low.

Scientists and conservationists who reviewed the plan said its reasoning is flawed. They challenged how the agency reconfigures the classification of wolf subspecies and its assertion that little habitat remains for wolves.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, the former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service and now the president of Defenders of Wildlife, said the decision "reeks of politics" and vowed that it will face multiple legal challenges.

"This is politics versus professional wildlife management," Clark said. "The service is saying, 'We're done. Game over. Whatever happens to wolves in the U.S. is a state thing.' They are declaring victory long before science would tell them to do so."

The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to release its decision to delist the wolves in coming weeks and it could become final within a year. Brent Lawrence, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman, said Thursday that the agency would not comment.

The proposed rule is technically a draft until it is entered into the Federal Register.

Some scientists agreed with the decision to delist the wolves. But several took exception to some of the findings that the agency included in the document, including the scientifically disputed issue of defining wolf subspecies.

"It's a little depressing that science can be used and pitched in this way," said Bob Wayne, a professor of evolutionary biology at UCLA.

Wolves were once common and ranged across much of the continental United States, a vestigial symbol of the Old West and its expanse of open, wild country.

But as the West became urbanized and ranching spread, government-subsidized hunting that offered bounties for wolf kills virtually wiped out the animals by the 1930s.

A half-century later, scientists recognized the value in restoring top predators to re-balance ecosystems, and federal wildlife managers hashed out a reintroduction program. A group of 66 Canadian wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and the animals have thrived, exceeding recovery goals each year. More than 1,600 now roam the northern Rockies, although last year the population fell by 7%.

Wolves and their presence on the landscape have always elicited passionate responses and stirred political action. In 2011, for example, language that Congress buried in a defense appropriations bill directed the Interior secretary to remove most wolves in the Rockies from the endangered classification. Such decisions are normally left to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Delisting is not common, and is generally accompanied by much fanfare as the move signifies a great effort in pulling a species back from the brink of extinction. Only two dozen species have ever been removed from the list.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity has been tracking the progress of Mexican wolves and applauded the decision to designate that species as endangered.

"The importance of a subspecies listing is that it will finally compel the service to do what it says it's wanted to do for 25 years — which is to complete a recovery plan," he said.

The recognition of the Mexican gray wolf as a subspecies represents an about-face for the agency. The Fish and Wildlife Service denied a listing petition for the Mexican wolf in October.

The Mexican wolf reintroduction program, begun in 1995, has been a disaster. Only one wolf has been released from the captive breeding program in the last four years — in January. That male was recaptured three weeks later.

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This article appeared in the Los Angeles Times and in the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Submit your letter to the Editor of the LA Times here.
Submit your letter to the Editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican here.


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

Act now: Tell your member of Congress to use his/her influence to maintain protections for wolves currently protected under the Endangered Species Act!

You can find contact info for
your Congressperson at this link: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

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. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to info@mexicanwolves.org.

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.

At last count, just 75 Mexican gray wolves, including three breeding pairs, survived in the wild. These native wolves are critically endangered. New releases and additional populations of these wolves are desperately needed for them to thrive. Endangered species protections are critical to their survival. But AZ Game and Fish has consistently tried to undermine the wolves and will continue to do so if lobos become subject to state management.

Express your support of wolves and stress that the majority of Arizona residents support wolves and understand their importance.   Polling done by Research and Polling, Inc. found 77 percent of Arizona 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 to save our lobos!

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