ENDANGERED SPECIES - The Los Angeles Times reports today that the feds are getting ready to announce their proposal to remove gray wolves from Endangered species protections.
Mike Jimenez, who manages wolves in the northern Rockies for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said delisting in that region underscored a “huge success story.”
The sweeping rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would eliminate protection for wolves 18 years after the government reestablished the predators in the West, where they had been hunted to extinction. Their reintroduction was a success, with the population growing to the thousands.
Pro wolf groups already are arguing that the move would cut short wolf recovery before the species has advanced anywhere near its former range, including Colorado and Utah.
But it's clear that state and federal wildlife manager are saying wolves have reestablished better than scientists had predicted and the headaches and social impact make delisting a prudent step in the wolf's best interest.
The presence of wolves has always drawn protests across the Intermountain West from state officials, hunters and ranchers who lost livestock to the wolves. They have lobbied to remove the gray wolf from the endangered list.
Jimenez said that while wolves are now legally hunted in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the federal agency continues to monitor pack populations and can reinstate protections should numbers reach levels that biologists consider to be dangerously low.
Federal authorities intend to remove endangered species protections for all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states, carving out an a exception for a small pocket of about 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, according to a draft document obtained by The Times.
Once those protections end, the fate of wolves is left to individual states. The species is only beginning to recover in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. California is considering imposing its own protections after the discovery of a lone male that wandered into the state's northern counties from Oregon two years ago.
The species has flourished elsewhere, however, and the government ended endangered status for the gray wolf in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions last year.