Press Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Closed-Door Meetings Honed Plan to Strip Gray Wolf Endangered Species Status
Washington, DC — The federal government’s plan to remove the gray wolf from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, as detailed by a draft Federal Register notice posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), is temporarily on hold. The reasons for the indefinite delay announced this week were not revealed and neither were the records of meetings beginning in 2010 to hammer out this plan. Today PEER filed a federal lawsuit to obtain the records from those meetings.
The draft Federal Register notice would strike the gray wolf from the federal list of threatened or endangered species but would keep endangered status for the Mexican wolf. Yet, no protected habitat would be delineated for the Mexican wolf, of which far fewer than 100 remain in the wild. This long-planned step is the culmination of what officials call their National Wolf Strategy, developed in a series of closed-door federal-state meetings called “Structured Decision Making” or SDM, beginning in August 2010.
On April 30, 2012, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for all SDM meeting notes, handouts and decision documents. More than a year later, the agency has not produced a single responsive record, despite a statutory requirement that the records be produced within 20 working days. Today, PEER filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to obtain all of the SDM documents.
“By law, Endangered Species Act decisions are supposed to be governed by the best available science, not the best available deal,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to a letter from the nation’s leading wolf researchers challenging the scientific basis for the de-listing plan. “The politics surrounding this predator’s legal status have been as fearsome as the reputation of the gray wolf itself.”
The SDM meetings included most states involved with gray wolf conservation. PEER charges that the resulting National Wolf Strategy used political and economic factors to predetermine the answer to scientific questions, such as the biological recovery requirements for wolves and ruling out areas in states within the species’ historical range which lack sufficient suitable habitat.
Other documents earlier uncovered by PEER show eligible habitat for Mexican wolves was severely limited by a related series of political federal-state deals. For example, federal “talking points” for bargaining sessions trading off theoretical protections for Mexican wolves at the expense of gray wolves:
“By acknowledging that the range of the Mexican wolf includes these five states [AZ, NM, CO, UT and TX] through a subspecies listing, the Service would be able to justify delisting the gray wolf in these states” (emphasis in original)
“This closed-door process lacked not only transparency but also integrity. It involved no independent scientists, let alone peer reviewed findings,” Ruch added. “It is not surprising that the Fish & Wildlife Service does not want to see this laundry airing in the public domain.”
These foundational SDM documents sought by PEER may influence the final decision by the new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell as well as affecting the outcome of lawsuits that almost certainly follow the imminent federal gray wolf de-listing announcement.
Our lands need wolves. But wolves need protection to recover.
Join PEER in their support of gray wolves. Urge your members of Congress to use his/her influence to stop this plan to prematurely delist wolves throughout the lower 48 states!
You can find contact info for your members of Congress 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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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