For Immediate Release, April 2, 2014
||Rebecca Noblin, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 274-1110
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 752-7557
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Rare Alaskan Wolf Threatened by
Old-growth Logging of Tongass National Forest
SITKA, Alaska— The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Boat Company notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today of their intent to file suit against the agency for delaying Endangered Species Act protection for the Alexander Archipelago wolf, a rare subspecies of gray wolf found only in the old-growth forests of southeast Alaska. In August 2011 the groups filed a petition to protect the wolves, which are at risk of extinction because of the U.S. Forest Service’s unsustainable logging and road-building practices in the Tongass National Forest. The Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday made an initial 90-day finding that listing the Alexander Archipelago wolf may be warranted but the agency is a year and a half overdue on its legally required 12-month decision, which is supposed to determine if protection is in fact warranted.
“The rare Alexander Archipelago wolf is in desperate need of protection for its old-growth forest home,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director at the Center. “Irresponsible logging on the Tongass National Forest, combined with unsustainable hunting, is driving the Alexander Archipelago wolf to oblivion. If the Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t act soon to protect this top predator, America is going to lose another precious piece of its biological heritage.”
Heavily reliant on old-growth forests, Alexander Archipelago wolves den in the root systems of very large trees and hunt mostly Sitka black-tailed deer, which are themselves dependent on high-quality, old-growth forests, especially for winter survival. A long history of clear-cut logging on the Tongass and private and state-owned lands has devastated much of the wolf’s habitat on the islands of southeast Alaska.
“Unless the Fish and Wildlife Service has a change of heart and agrees to reach a listing decision promptly, our organizations will sue,” said Sitka-based Greenpeace forest campaigner Larry Edwards. “This is isn’t just about missed deadlines. The problem is the delay in combination with the irreversibility of on-the-ground impacts to the Archipelago wolf and its primary prey. Time is wasting, and between the Forest Service, Alaska DNR and the University of Alaska, eight significant timber sales are planned in southeast Alaska’s wolf territory, right now.”
Last year the Forest Service, in response to an appeal by the Center, Greenpeace and three allied organizations, temporarily halted its Big Thorne timber sale in the Tongass National Forest. The agency is now reviewing the sale’s impact on Alexander Archipelago wolves. This was prompted by an expert declaration in the groups’ appeal by preeminent Alexander Archipelago wolf biologist and former state of Alaska research biologist Dr. David Person, who bluntly concluded that “the Big Thorne timber sale, if implemented, represents the final straw that will break the back of a sustainable wolf-deer predator-prey ecological community on Prince of Wales Island.”
Since the 2011 petition to protect the wolves, the population on Prince of Wales Island has declined significantly. According to Person there were 45 to 50 wolves in the Big Thorne timber sale area, in north-central Prince of Wales, in the mid-1990s. By 2013 he was able to find evidence of only six or seven wolves there; he estimated that the population declined by about 80 percent during the winter of 2012-2013 alone. Almost all the wolves were killed by people, both legally and illegally, and access to the island’s 3,000 miles of logging roads continues to enable these unsustainable death rates.
Today’s 60-day notice of intent to sue is a legally required precursor before a lawsuit can be filed to compel the agency to act under the Endangered Species Act.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 675,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose
global environmental problems and to promote solutions
that are essential to a green and peaceful future.
The Boat Company is a nonprofit educational and charitable organization with a 35-year history of offering wilderness cruises in southeast Alaska, helping to build a strong constituency for wildlife conservation through personal experience.