In a surprising turn of events, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a delay in its plan to strip federal protection from nearly all gray wolves throughout the U.S. this week, but the plan could still move forward at any time.
Since losing protection in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions hundreds of wolves have been brutally slaughtered by hunters and trappers – both wolves who lived anonymously in the wild and collared wolves whose stories we followed. Michigan, the only state in the Great Lakes that didn’t have a wolf hunt last year, recently reclassified wolves as a game species, while other states are now working towards allowing hunting with dogs and baiting.
It’s a success story turned war zone for wolves, who unfortunately don’t understand state boundary lines and continue to pay for their ignorance with their lives.
At the end of April, the FWS was intent on moving forward with its plan to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection from wolves throughout the lower 48 states, with the exception of Mexican gray wolves, which sparked a lot of controversy and outrage from conservationists, wolf advocates, members of Congress and the public. Letters were written, phone calls were made, petitions were signed and lawsuits were filed with one common goal: to ensure that wolves remained federally protected and that management authority was not turned over to states.
Opponents of delisting believe the plan is premature, ignores the benefits of top predators, undermines the premise of the ESA and that there is still a lot of space in their former range for them to expand to in the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast.
Last week, leaders from Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, the Endangered Species Coalition, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking her to reconsider the plan, which was followed by a letter sent by Rep. Raul Grijalva on Endangered Species Day asking that she cancel the “scientifically flawed” delisting proposal.
Following even more letters that were sent from the American Society of Mammologists and 16 biologists, government attorneys announced on Monday that “a recent unexpected delay” is indefinitely holding up the works, without offering any other explanation, reports the AP.
No one seems to be sure what exactly happened, but wolf advocates are thrilled with the reprieve. Meanwhile, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit get a hold of the meeting records that led to the plan in the first place.
Because the proposal to strip protection from wolves has not been permanently canceled, they need us to keep speaking up on their behalf now more than ever.
Please help seal the deal for this iconic species by signing the petition asking Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to keep wolves federally protected.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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