For Immediate Release, October 3, 2012
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Wolves One Step Closer to Protection Under California Endangered Species Act
Decision Follows The First Wolf in California in More Than 80 Years
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the California Fish and Wildlife Commission today unanimously voted to make the gray wolf a candidate for protection under the California Endangered Species Act. The decision initiates a one-year status review before a decision is made about permanent protection, but provides immediate protection to wolves in the meantime, including the wolf known as OR-7 that continues to roam Northern California and is the first wolf in the state in more than 80 years.
“We’re elated that wolves in California are an important step closer to recovery,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “Protection of wolves under the California Endangered Species Act will help these beautiful animals return to extensive habitat in northern California and the Sierra Nevada, where scientists say there’s is plenty of room for them.”
Gray wolves are currently protected by the federal Endangered Species Act as part of the lower 48 population, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that it intends to remove this protection, casting doubt on whether federal protection will remain. Moreover, neither the Fish and Wildlife Service nor the California Department of Fish and Game have developed a recovery plan for wolves in California. Such a plan would specify management actions needed to protect and recover the species and establish population targets.
“California needs a road map for recovering wolves,” said Greenwald. “Wolf populations in neighboring states will continue to expand, and more wolves will almost certainly show up in California. These wolves will need protection when they arrive.”
Between wolves crossing the border from Canada and efforts to reintroduce them into Yellowstone National Park, wolf populations have continued to grow in the northern Rocky Mountains and Oregon and Washington. The wolf known as Journey, or OR-7, who arrived in California in December 2011, came from a pack formed in 2008 when wolves moved from Idaho to the Wallowa Mountains in northeast Oregon.
“Wolves have been an integral part of North American landscapes, including in California, for millions of years and are cherished, iconic animals that deserve a certain future,” said Greenwald. “The return of wolves to California will help restore the natural balance and reverse the historic wrong done by people who shot, poisoned and persecuted wolves into oblivion.”
Wolves are a keystone species that benefit their prey populations by culling sick animals and preventing the overpopulation of species such as deer. Studies of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park show that they benefit numerous other species as well, including pronghorn and foxes, by controlling coyote populations; they help songbirds and beavers by dispersing browsing elk and allowing recovery of the streamside vegetation that songbirds and beavers need.
The Center was joined in the petition by Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. For more information, see:http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/wolves_on_the_west_coast/index.html.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.