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For Immediate Release, January 14, 2009

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017  

Bush Administration Removes Wolves From Endangered Species List

SILVER CITY, N.M.— For the third time under the Bush administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a final rule to strip wolves of protection under the Endangered Species Act in the northern Rocky Mountains and Midwest.

The rule covers all of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan as well as parts of Washington, Oregon, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s previous actions to delist and down-list endangered gray wolves have all been remanded by federal courts.

“This rule ignores the wise protections of the Endangered Species Act, will result in the deaths of over a thousand wolves, and will unravel the natural balance these wolves have maintained,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

He added, “Once again we will go to court to keep the wolves alive.”

Rather than fixing the problems identified in the previous court rulings, today’s delisting of gray wolves creates new problems that will keep wolves from recovering.

For example, because the State of Wyoming has designated the wolf a predatory animal in 88 percent of the state, which will allow wolves to be killed on sight, Fish and Wildlife has decided to keep wolves endangered in Wyoming. As a result, a subset of the wolf population that contains only 75 breeding pairs of wolves is considered “recovered.” Studies indicate that, at a minimum, hundreds of breeding animals are necessary to maintain population viability without debilitating genetic problems. This decision is also problematic because current policy does not allow designation of distinct population segments based on state boundaries.

Even these 75 breeding pairs are not secure since the Idaho and Montana wolf management plans allow for excessive killing of wolves, including a majority of the wolves in Idaho alone. Furthermore, wolves have not been recovered in the majority of their range nationwide, yet are being delisted piecemeal.

“Wolves should not be removed from protection until they are secure and recovered in a larger and more viable portion of their range,” said Robinson.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and its predecessor agency were responsible for the extermination of wolves throughout much of the 20th century on behalf of the livestock industry. Gray wolves survived in small numbers in the upper Midwest and expanded under the protections of the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Wolves began recolonizing northern Montana and Idaho on their own in the 1980s, and numbers grew significantly after the 1995 and 1996 reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.

Under an exception to the Act, Fish and Wildlife Service actions have resulted in the federal killing on behalf of the livestock industry of 931 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and at least 1,951 wolves in the Great Lakes region from 1996 through 2008.

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