Message from the Center for Biological Diversity's Executive Director:
Having devoted the last 22 years of my life to protecting endangered species — including wolves in Alaska, the Great Lakes, the Northern Rockies, the Northwest and the Southwest — I understand how an agreement that doesn’t result in total protection of wolves is a disappointment. After months of watching the escalating, catastrophic threat bearing down on northern Rockies and Northwest wolves, and the Endangered Species Act itself, however, we came to the difficult conclusion that a legal settlement is the best course of action we can take to keep the killing of wolves in the northern Rockies to a minimum, establish an independent scientific baseline to guide their long-term conservation, prevent the total eradication of the Northwest population, jumpstart the creation of a new, large population in the Northwest, rescind the legal memo used to justify stripping protection for western wolves and many other species, and preserve the right of citizen groups to legally challenge a decision to permanently delist Northern Rockies wolves which will occur in the next 18 to 24 months.
With support from the White House and the Democratic leadership of the Senate, Congressmen Tester and Baucus are pushing a bill to delist all wolves in WY, ID, MT, UT, WA and OR. The decision would be permanent and exempted from litigation challenge. We believe it would result in a massive decline of the northern Rockies population and the quick elimination of the very small Northwest population in WA and OR. It would also open the door to anti-endangered species congressmen to introduce a slew of bills to delist other imperiled species across the country.
Our settlement asks the court to retain, but temporarily stay, its order of 2009 in regard to wolves in MT and ID. The order would stand in regard to wolves in UT, WA and OR. They would remain fully protected. The WY population would also remain fully protected unless and until it produced a management plan to meet U.S. FIsh and Wildlife Service conditions which it has for years refused to do. The stay would last until the USFWS issues a new northern Rockies delisting rule. We expect that will be 18 to 24 months. That new rule will be developed through the normal public process and will be fully challengeable in court. The new rule will also consider officially splitting OR, WA and UT off into a separately listed population, therefore not delisting it and putting it on a path toward large-scale recovery. The current trajectory is to delist the tiny Northwest population and end its recovery simply because it was arbitrarily attached to the much larger northern Rockies population.
Additionally, the USFWS will establish monitoring systems to track the status of northern Rockies wolves and list them on an emergency basis if their population plummets precipitously. It will establish an independent science panel to determine recovery thresholds for northern Rockies wolves. And it will withdraw the disastrous Interior Solicitor’s Memo, which has been used to deny protection to wolves and many other imperiled species.
Given the virtual certainty of Congress quickly and permanently stripping protection from all northern Rockies and Northwest wolves while establishing no scientific baselines of recovery and banning all lawsuits to challenge the delisting, we fully believe it is in the best interest of wolves and many other endangered species to craft this legal settlement. It was a difficult and heartwrenching decision, but one that we feel is the best course in the very difficult and dangerous situation.
Center for Biological Diversity