For Immediate Release, December 21, 2010
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Lawsuit Launched to Recover Wolves Across Country
National Plan Would Focus on Saving Existing Wolf Populations and Returning Wolves to West Coast, New England, Southern Rockies and Great Plains
WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Interior Department for failing to develop a recovery plan for wolves in the lower 48 states. Such a plan is required by the Endangered Species Act, and according to today’s notice should have been developed 30 years ago or more. In July the Center submitted a scientific petition to Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service asking that a national recovery plan be developed, but never received a response.
A national plan would provide a roadmap for recovering existing wolf populations and returning wolves to some of their historic range around the country; suitable wolf habitat exists in the Pacific Northwest, California, Great Basin, southern Rocky Mountains, Great Plains and New England.
“Wolves are an integral part of this country’s natural history and need a national recovery plan now,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “Although wolves have made important strides toward recovery in parts of the northern Rockies and Great Lakes, these areas represent less than 5 percent of their historic range. We call on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to stop playing politics and use his legal authority to do right by the wolf.”
With passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, four subspecies of wolves were originally protected under the Endangered Species Act: the Mexican gray wolf, northern Rocky Mountain wolf, eastern timber wolf and Texas gray wolf. Because of questions about the validity of these subspecies, protection of the wolf was consolidated to include all wolves in the lower 48 states in 1978. But despite this consolidation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service never developed a national recovery plan for the wolf. Instead, it finalized plans for three of four of the previously protected subspecies. These plans cover a small fraction of the wolf’s former range, are decades old and set population goals well below what scientists now know are necessary for population health and survival.
“It is time for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to chart a new course for wolf recovery,” said Greenwald. “This plan is badly needed to establish new goals and management for existing wolf populations and as a blueprint for establishing wolves in additional areas.”
In recent years, states with wolf populations have demanded that federal protections be lifted based on the outdated recovery plans. But the Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to appease these demands and remove protections for northern Rockies and Great Lakes wolves have been repeatedly rebuffed by the courts in lawsuits brought by conservation groups, including the Center. A national recovery plan could specify a legally defensible path for truly recovering wolves and provide certainty for states that have wolf populations.
“The Department of the Interior’s failure to develop a national recovery strategy for the wolf, as it has for other species like the bald eagle, has led to tremendous confusion and hampered true wolf recovery,” said Greenwald. “Wolves have been an integral part of North American landscapes for millions of years and are cherished, iconic animals that deserve a certain future in this country.”
Wolves are a keystone species that benefit prey populations by culling sick animals and preventing overpopulation. Studies of wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park show that they also benefit other species, including pronghorn and foxes by controlling coyote populations, and songbirds and beavers by dispersing browsing elk and allowing recovery of streamside vegetation.