For Immediate Release, March 6, 2009
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ignores Need for a Nationwide Strategy to
Conserve Wolves and Moves Forward With Delisting
Wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes
SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today moved forward with a Bush administration plan for removing gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and the upper Midwest from the list of endangered species.
“Today’s announcement means wolves will lose their federal protections before recovery is complete,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “And, as we saw last year before a federal judge reversed a Bush administration delisting rule, that will result in an unconstrained and unconscionable slaughter of these animals.”
“It is disappointing that the Obama administration is choosing to follow a bad Bush policy to piecemeal wolf conservation efforts instead of prioritizing the development of a national wolf recovery plan.”
Wolves once roamed most of the continental United States, but today survive in a small fraction of their historic range. With today’s move, wolves will lose protection in most of their remaining range, seriously undermining efforts to conserve wolves in portions of their historic range where they no longer occur.
“Wolves play a vital role in the ecosystems in which they occur,” said Robinson. “It’s a shame that the agency has abandoned a larger recovery effort to the many places, such as the Northeastern United States, southern Rockies, Pacific Northwest and Sierra Nevada, where wolves could survive.”
Even in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes where numbers of wolves have substantially increased, it is questionable whether they are fully recovered. Wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains number fewer than 200 breeding animals, far below the thousands that independent biologists have determined are necessary to avoid long-term genetic problems and decline, and the state of Idaho plans to kill many of the wolves in their state. Likewise, state plans in the Great Lakes states will allow killing of many wolves, even as disease is resulting in loss of many wolf pups. The severity of these threats suggests that wolves will not see any further recovery. Worse still, Fish and Wildlife was forced to retain protection for wolves in Wyoming because the state refused to provide sufficient protection.
“Setting up a system in which wolves in a population are both endangered and not endangered was not contemplated and is not supported by the Endangered Species Act,” said Robinson. “This is a contortionist’s interpretation of a law that doesn’t need any distortion.”
This is the third time the agency has tried to remove protection for wolves and each time it has lost in court.