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For Immediate Release, April 15, 2011

Contact: Collette Adkins Giese, (651) 955-3821

Proposal Would Prematurely Strip Endangered Species Act Protections From
Gray Wolves in Great Lakes Region

But Second Wolf Species in Region, Eastern Wolf, May Receive Protection  

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the Great Lakes region. Like two previous rules struck down by court orders, the proposal defines and delists a “distinct population segment” of gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as parts of several adjacent states. The Service also announced that it is initiating a status review of the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon), a second species of wolf known to occur in the Great Lakes area. 

“The Service’s decision to strip Endangered Species Act protections from Great Lakes wolves promises to undo hard-earned progress toward gray wolf recovery in recent years,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Until we deal with the threats these animals face, including disease and killing by people, it’s premature to lift federal protections.”

The risks from disease and other threats would be compounded by state wildlife agencies that have made it clear that, should federal protection for wolves be eliminated, they would drastically reduce wolf populations. For example, Minnesota’s plan resurrects a version of the old bounty system by paying state-certified predator controllers $150 for each wolf killed. And the Wisconsin plan seeks to reduce the state population by half to reach a target goal of 350 wolves.

“Gray wolves remain absent from 95 percent of their former range, and yet the Service is eager to declare them recovered,” said Adkins Giese. “Instead of pandering to the minority who want to kill wolves, the Service should use its legal authority to chart a new course that focuses on national wolf recovery, including recovery for the newly recognized eastern wolf.”

Protecting the eastern wolf under the Endangered Species Act could kick-start moribund wolf-recovery efforts in the Northeast, including New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, where scientists have identified suitable wolf habitat. If the Service protects the eastern wolf as an endangered species, one difficult issue will be defining the boundary with Great Lakes wolves, as scientists have documented hybridization between the two wolf species around the Great Lakes.  

“Wolf conservation in the Great Lakes region is far more complex than previously understood,” said Adkins Giese. “All wolves in the area need federal protection while scientists resolve critical issues and threats are further reduced.”   

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