Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stirred up a serious controversy when it formally proposed removing federal protections for gray wolves throughout the U.S., but lawmakers and wolf advocates are continuing to speak up for wolves as time runs out.
Wolf advocates continue to raise concerns about what will happen if they lose federal protection in the lower 48. Officials said states could handle wolf management and would do so responsibly, but so far they’ve shown that if management is left to them, wolves will be right back where they started on the brink of extinction. Thousands of wolves have already been brutally slaughtered in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes region after they lost federal protection and management was turned over to the states.
If they’re delisted now they will be left even more vulnerable than they already are and may never establish new territories in the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast, which is critical to their successful recovery. Yet, instead of doing its job, which is to ensure wolves are not subjected to out of control hunting policies, politics and intolerance or the persecution of very vocal ag groups and hunters, the FWS wants to turn its back on wolves as states continue to call for more to die.
Just last week Idaho passed a bill that would create a board to administer a fund to support killing an estimated 500 wolves who are already being gunned down and trapped. State leaders reportedly intend to reduce the state’s wolf population to 150 and 15 breeding pairs, which is just above the threshold that would get them relisted. The bill is expected to be signed by Governor Butch Otter, who has already made it publicly clear that he’s out for wolf blood.
That move came after the state drew the ire of conservationists for hosting a predator killing contest that targeted wolves and coyotes and for sending a hired assassin into the woods to shamelessly kill entire packs. What’s happened in states that are hostile to predators, and is continuing to happen, is further proof that they need continued protection.
Fortunately, wolves are not without heroes. Last week Peter DeFazio, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter that was co-signed by 73 members of Congress to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urging her to direct the FWS to withdraw its flawed proposal.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires decisions to list or delist a species to be made solely on the best available science, which the FWS has clearly not done. Even with the agency’s tampering with the process, last month a panel of independent scientists unanimously concluded that the proposal does not currently represent the ‘best available science.’
“Because it is not based on the best available science, the proposed role undermines decades of conservation work done to protect the gray wolf, and sets a bad precedent for future ESA delistings,” wrote DeFazio.
The panel rejected the government’s claim that there are two separate species of wolves and that the eastern wolf, not the gray wolf, is native to the Northeast. If the claim had held up, it would make it unnecessary to restore gray wolves in those areas, but the panel concluded that the idea was based on a study that was written by scientists on the government’s payroll and wasn’t widely accepted.
Because the process has been called out as flawed, wolf advocates believe the only conscionable thing for the FWS to do is to withdraw its proposal, but time to speak up on behalf of these iconic predators and get an official comment in to the FWS is running out.
The public comment period closes at midnight on March 27. Please take a moment to submit one in support of continued federal protection for gray wolves throughout the U.S. at regulations.gov.
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