Wolves Face Threat of Removal from Endangered Species Act
They’ve been shot at from the air, chased down on land, trapped and poisoned. They’ve fled to higher ground to escape human beings and still continue to survive. Waiting, possibly, for people to understand their place on this earth, the wolf was at last given protection under the Endangered Species Act.
But last month proposals placed the wolf in danger of being exempt from federal protections. Pushed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and governors from three Northern Rockies states, bills were proposed in Congress that open season on the wolf again.
This is the first time in the 40 years of the Act that Congress has been asked to exempt an animal from the Endangered Species Act, a precedent that could severely undermine the Act. It comes after several court orders struck down other plans by Salazar to remove wolves from protections.
Salazar is targeting the northern Rockies and Great Lakes wolves, but bills already introduced would strip protection from the Mexican gray wolf whose population is down to just 42 wild wolves and two breeding pairs.
“If they were stripped of protection altogether, there’s no doubt the Mexican gray wolf would go extinct,” said Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity. The Center has defended gray wolves for more than two decades, first suing the federal government to get the wolves out of the zoo and into the wild.
The Center notified the Interior Department in December that it will sue the agency unless the government crafts a plan to bring back wolves throughout their North American range.
An estimated 6,000 wolves live in the lower 48 states. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, saying the more than 1,700 wolves in the Northern Rockies, were harming game herds and livestock. Pushing a Senate vote on a bill to strip wolves nationwide of federal protections, Crapo was backed by Republicans in Wyoming and Utah. Democratic objections stopped the bill.
Maryland Democrat Sen. Benjamin Cardin said the bill is an attempt “to solve politically what should be done by good science.” When wolves reach young adulthood they sometimes travel hundreds of miles to find new territory. In recent years they gained a presence in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah and northern New England. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is analyzing wolf genetics to learn how populations in different parts of the country relate to one another.
The Center says they benefit an area by stirring up elk and deer which allows vegetation to grow back, increasing songbirds and keeping coyote populations in balance.
“In 2011 we’ll be ramping up efforts to beat back Salazar’s plans and delisting legislation, pushing for a long-overdue nationwide wolf recovery plan, fixing the flagging Mexican wolf recovery program and stopping the killing of wolves in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes,” the Center states.
At least two bills would remove protections from wolves nationwide. Or wolves could lose protection in only Montana and Idaho where both states seek to drastically reduce wolf populations. Depending on the bill, wolves could lose protections in all of the northern Rockies. In Wyoming they would be shot on sight in 90 percent of the state.
Wildlife advocate efforts are trying to head off the bills in Congress, saying this politicizes an animal’s existence with no sound scientific backing.
STAND UP FOR WOLVES
Send letters to tell President Obama and your elected officials to protect wolves and ensure the integrity of the Endangered Species Act. Don’t let them exempt our wolves from protection.
Sign the Defenders of Wildlife’s petition to protect wolves and the Endangered Species Act.
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