For Immediate Release, February 7, 2014
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Top Wolf Scientists Unanimous: Science Doesn't Support Plan to Strip Protections
WASHINGTON— The Obama administration’s proposal to end federal protections for gray wolves across most the lower 48 states contains substantial errors and misrepresents the most current science regarding wolf conservation and wolf taxonomy, an independent peer review panel has found. The four leading wolf scientists were unanimous in their broad criticism of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s June 2013 proposal to drop Endangered Species Act protections for the wolves, which occupy less than 5 percent of their historic range.
“The nation’s top wolf scientists today confirmed what we and millions of American’s have been saying for months: The job of wolf recovery is far from complete,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This peer review is a major blow to the Obama administration’s highly political effort to prematurely remove protections for wolves.”
Peer reviewers were particularly critical of the Service’s determination that the gray wolf never occurred in 29 eastern states, but rather that a different species of wolf known as the “eastern wolf” occurred there. This determination forms a primary basis for removing protections.
“The Service’s attempt to justify this decision on dubious science does not mask the fact that wolves occupy just a small fraction of their former range in the United States,” said Greenwald. “And in the few places where wolves have returned, they face levels of persecution not seen since the early 1900s that have resulted in the deaths of more than 2,600 wolves since 2011.”
Peer review is a critical part of the process in deciding whether to end endangered species protection for a species because it ensures outside experts agree that a species is truly able to stand on its own once protections are ended. Despite the importance of an objective and independent peer review process, in August of last year, the Service interfered with the selection of peer reviewers for the gray wolf delisting proposal. Some of the nation’s top wolf biologists were disqualified because the Service concluded that the scientists had an unacceptable “affiliation with an advocacy position.” After this information came to light the Service acknowledged its mistake, scrapped the first peer review panel and started a new process that was firewalled from Service influence.
“After playing fast-and-loose with the rules during the first peer review panel and getting caught, the Fish and Wildlife Service cannot ignore the results of this second peer review panel,” said Greenwald. “It is time for the Service to withdraw its delisting proposal and instead develop a long-term plan to restore wolves to New England, the Southern Rockies and the West Coast; only then can the wolf truly be considered recovered in the United States.”
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.