For Immediate Release, February 21, 2008

Contact: Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 534-0360

Bush Administration Strips Legal Protections for Northern Rockies Wolves;
Conservationists to Fight for Wolves in Court

SILVER CITY, N.M. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the removal of wolves from the Endangered Species Act’s list of endangered and threatened species in a vast area of the northern Rocky Mountains and adjoining regions today. The move will strip wolves of federal protections throughout all of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana and portions of Utah, Oregon, and Washington. Officials from both Idaho and Wyoming have made clear that they intend to dramatically increase the numbers of wolves that are shot and killed.

Over 85 percent of the area where wolves will soon be officially “recovered” has no wolves in it, but any wolves traveling to those regions may be subject to aerial gunning, trapping, and even poisoning.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, decades before passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, exterminated wolves from the West,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration, acting on behalf of the livestock industry, is attempting to thwart recovery and bring wolves back to the brink of extinction.”

Although there are more than 1,500 wolves in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, only a fraction of those animals reproduce, since within each wolf pack only the alpha male and alpha female breed. Thus the genetically effective population is much lower than the total number of wolves. Furthermore, Wyoming and Idaho intend to kill approximately half their wolf populations, to reduce them to 15 breeding pairs in each state.

Wolves in Yellowstone are completely isolated; since reintroduction in 1995 there have been no wolves documented to have traveled from elsewhere into the Yellowstone ecosystem and successfully bred. Recent peer-reviewed research predicts genetic “inbreeding depression” and resulting lower litter sizes in wolf packs in Yellowstone within a few decades.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allied conservation organizations sued the Fish and Wildlife Service over its April 1, 2003 rule downlisting wolves from endangered to threatened — a prelude to removing them entirely from the list of protected species. A federal court reversed that downlisting on January 31, 2005.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is making the same legal mistake now as it did in 2003, and imperiling wolves’ survival,” said Robinson. “This time, just like last time, this illegal action will not stand in court.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 40,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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