The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced that it has begun reviewing the status of the gray wolf in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act, and the agency intends to publish a proposal revising the wolf’s status “by the end of the calendar year.”
Translation: Gray wolves will probably lose their protected status and be at the mercy of hunters and trappers.
This is terrible news for the environment. There are two types of wolf in the U.S., the gray wolf and the red wolf, but the gray wolf has the largest population by far. So this decision would impact almost all wolves across the country.
Ironically, I wrote just last week about the historic journey of a gray wolf known as OR-54, the 54th wolf Oregon biologists have collared. She traveled from Oregon to Nevada County, California, the furthest south any gray wolf has been seen since the early 1900s. Now, just as we are celebrating the return of gray wolves to California, the USFWS proposes to take them off the endangered species list.
How do we know this? Here’s what USFWS Chief of Public Affairs Gavin Shire wrote about the decision to review the status of wolves:
With the gray wolf’s recovery goals exceeded, the Service proposed delisting the species throughout the remainder of its range in 2013 under the previous administration. The proposal was based on sound science and predicated on wolves already being delisted in the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes. Unfortunately, the delisting of wolves in the Western Great Lakes region was successfully overturned by the courts, which prevented the Service from moving forward with the full delisting proposal at that time.
I beg to disagree.
Although the gray wolf has begun to make a comeback, its recovery goals have not been exceeded around the country.
And when the USFWS removed protections for wolves in 2011 in the Great Lakes region, over 1,500 died.Trophy hunters simply took over and had a field day in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Although Shire states that the delisting proposed in 2103 to cover the rest of the U.S. was based on “sound science,” a federal judge disagreed. In December, 2014, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that the removal of protections for the gray wolf was “arbitrary and capricious”and that it violated the Endangered Species Act. In 2017 Howell’s decision was upheld by a federal appellate court.
Wolves are magnificent creatures, and there are several reasons why they deserve protection.
Wolves are labeled “keystone” species because they play a vital role in ecosystems. We saw how the natural balance was disturbed in the Greater Yellowstone area when wolves were exterminated there. With no predators, the elk population escalated, and this led to overgrazing on aspens and willows. This shift, in turn, produced a downturn in the number of beavers, who use these trees to build dams. Marshes became streams, throwing aquatic systems into disarray.
Wolves used to roam freely across the U.S., but their numbers were reduced by trapping, poisoning and hunting. In fact, wolves were almost extinct by the 1930s. Although efforts to re-introduce them have succeeded in the western Great Lakes States and the Northern Rockies, there are still vast swaths of their former habitat where these predators are missing.
In a lengthy report published in January 2014, following the USFWS’s decision to take wolves off the Endangered Species list, a group of distinguished experts — hired by the USFWS — unanimously declared “that the rule does not currently represent the ‘best available science.’” This of course is contrary to what Shire declared in his statement.
Center for Biological Diversity Attorney Collette Adkins explains:
It’s deeply troubling to see the Trump administration trying to prematurely kick wolves off the endangered species list. Time and again the courts have told the Service that wolves need further recovery before their protections can be removed. But the agency is dead-set on appeasing special interests who want to kill these amazing animals.
We can fight back. If you agree with Adkins, please sign this Care2 petition, asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to take the gray wolf off the Endangered Species list.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 28 Jun 2018.
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