Poll finds voter support for wolf protections
A majority of voters support allowing wolves to recolonize suitable habitat in the southern Rocky Mountains, California and the Northeast where protections for the predators will soon be lifted, according to a new poll commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity.
In addition, 47 percent of voters oppose the Interior Department's proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the animals, compared to 31 percent who support the proposal.
The poll, conducted earlier this month by Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling, came one month after the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed delisting wolves in nearly all the lower 48 states, arguing that wolf populations are robust in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes (Greenwire, June 7).
The poll surveyed 1,378 registered voters and had a margin of error of 2.7 points.
"The Obama administration's plan to strip endangered species protections for wolves clearly doesn't have the support of most Americans," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at CBD. "The fact is that wolves are wildly popular, and most Americans want to see more wolves in more places."
An estimated 6,500 wolves currently roam about 5 percent of their historic range, CBD said.
When told that wolves once numbered 2 million in North America, half of the poll respondents said wolves have not yet recovered, while 33 percent said they have recovered.
A full 70 percent agreed that "wolves are a vital part of America's wilderness and natural heritage."
The Fish and Wildlife proposal to delist the species everywhere except parts of Arizona and New Mexico is expected to draw a lawsuit from environmental groups.
While the iconic predator has yet to reoccupy suitable habitat in the southern Rockies, the Pacific Northwest and California, wolves "no longer face the threat of extinction" and don't need federal protections," FWS Director Dan Ashe said last month.
"We have a vibrant, robust wolf population," he said.
In the past two years, the species was removed from the endangered species list in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, where wolves number nearly 1,700, and Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, where there are more than 4,000 of the animals.
The decision to delist in most of the remaining lower 48 was strongly supported by Republican lawmakers, Western states, agricultural groups and sportsmen.
Wolves have been found to play a beneficial role in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, where they keep game species in check and allow the regrowth of important plants and trees. But they also prey on animals like elk, which are important to hunters, and livestock.
Copyright © 2013 E&E Publishing, LLC.
This article originally appeared here.
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