ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this morning announced its proposal to lift most of the remaining federal protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states (with the exception of the Mexican wolf areas), a move that would end four decades of recovery efforts.
- The move is criticized by some scientists as premature; they listed concerns in May.
- Sportsmen's groups have been quick to support delisting.
- Washington-based Conservation Northwest also says delisting is premature, citing the reduced penalties for wolf poaching.
- The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership calls wolf delisting a conservation success story.
But in a draft proposal, federal scientists said the wolves in Washington and Oregon “constitute the expanding front of large, robust, and recovered wolf populations to the north and east.
Federal officials said in the draft, “We are confident that wolves will continue to recolonize the Pacific Northwest regardless of federal protection.”
The public has 90 days to comment period on the proposal. A final decision is expected next year.
With more than 6,100 wolves roaming the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe told The Associated Press that a species persecuted to near-extermination last century has successfully rebounded.
Prominent scientists and dozens of lawmakers in Congress want more. They say wolves need to be shielded so they can expand beyond the portions of 10 states they now occupy.
However, you won't find many lawmakers in districts occupied by wolves calling for more wolf protections, and 72 members of Congress representing both parties signed a letter to President Obama in March requesting the gray wolf be delisted from Engangered Species protections.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., issued this statement today, calling the delisting proposal “long overdue.”
Read this morning's AP report, which includes the range of opinions.