For Immediate Release, May 4, 2009
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360
Wolves in Northern Rockies and Great Lakes Lose Protections
Lawsuit to Follow
SILVER CITY, N.M.— Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves in the upper Midwest and most of the northern Rocky Mountains from the list of endangered species, following through on a Bush administration plan to increase federal and private hunting of wolves.
“Recovery of the much-persecuted gray wolf has not yet been achieved,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the conservation organizations that twice before stopped delisting during the Bush years through successful court challenges.
The current delisting rule was published in the waning days of the Bush administration, put on hold by the incoming Obama administration, and then approved without change on April 2, 2009 for activation today.
Conservation organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, represented by EarthJustice, filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue that will become ripe on June 2, 2009. The Endangered Species Act requires 60 days’ notice before commencement of litigation to allow time for a violating party to change course and cease its violation.
“We fear that once again wolves will be wantonly slaughtered before a court can rule,” said Robinson.
Between March 28, 2008, when gray wolves were last delisted, and lasting until July 18, 2008, when federal judge Donald W. Molloy restored the animals in the northern Rocky Mountains to the endangered species list, more than 100 wolves were killed.
Wolves once roamed almost all of the United States, but today survive in a small fraction of their historic range. Today’s removal of protection for wolves in nearly all of their current range seriously undermines efforts to recover them to portions of their historic range where they no longer occur.
“Wolves play a vital role in natural ecosystems,” said Robinson, “and they should be restored to places such as the northeastern United States, southern Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, and Sierra Nevada.”
Even where numbers of wolves have substantially increased, they have not yet fully recovered, say conservationists. Fewer than 200 breeding wolves survive in the northern Rocky Mountains, far below the barebones and still-dicey figure of 500 breeding animals that independent biologists have determined are necessary to avoid long-term genetic problems and decline.
The state of Idaho plans to kill hundreds of wolves, including those within 26 family packs that the federal predator-killing agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, identified as a priority for elimination this coming winter. Many of these wolves have been radio-collared, and are likely to be gunned down from the air.
State plans in the Great Lakes states also allow killing of a significant number of wolves, even as disease is resulting in loss of many wolf pups.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is keeping wolves in Wyoming on the endangered species list because the state refused to provide even the minimal (and inadequate) protections that the states of Idaho and Montana pledged to – and because Judge Molloy cited Wyoming’s particularly lethal wolf-management plan as one reason to enjoin delisting last year. That led the federal agency to identify wolves in Wyoming as part of a regional northern Rocky Mountain wolf population, but keep wolves there on the endangered list.
“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.”