Four Decades of Wolf Recovery Slated to End
Last Friday the USFWS officially announced its plan to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the contiguous United States. Federal ESA protections would remain only for the small population of Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) in the desert Southwest.
Will History Repeat Itself?
Wolves have been in the cross-hairs before. Gray wolves were persecuted so heavily in the past that by the mid-1900’s most lands in the lower 48 United States were void of this top predator. With the support of the American public, however, the wolf was able to return to portions of its native range. In areas where wolves were restored like the northern Rocky Mountains and western Great Lakes states, scientists have noted more diverse plant and wildlife thriving where they had been suppressed for decades. Wolves are a critical keystone species in a healthy ecosystem. Without predators, such as wolves, the system fails to support a natural level of biodiversity. As Aldo Leopold wrote in A Sand County Almanac in the Chapter “Thinking Like A Mountain”
“I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades.”
The ESA let our country give wolves a second chance. With second chances so hard to come by, should we be willing to throw it away?
Next Steps to Act for America's Wolves
Although USFWS director Daniel M. Ashe declared victory for gray wolf recovery by stating “Wolves are recovered and they are now in good hands," the WCC feels that the delsiting rule is terribly premature. USFWS is gauging gray wolf recovery solely on the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes wolf populations. Under the Endangered Species Act, USFWS is obligated to recover endangered species across a "significant portion” of their historic range. In recent years, there have been several reports of wolves from Canada crossing the frozen St. Lawrence Seaway into Maine, wolves travelling miles south into the southern Rocky Mountain states of Utah and Colorado, and accounts of one wolf, OR-7, becoming a media sensation when he became the first wild wolf to enter California in over 80 years. By stripping federal protections from wolves nationwide, these pioneers on the West Coast and in historically occupied areas like the southern Rockies and Northeast, may never be able to establish a viable populations despite suitable habitat and availability of prey.
The USFWS’s delisting proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days. Although information on how to provide comments has yet to be made available on the USFWS’s wolf information page at www.fws.gov/graywolfrecovery062013.html, we encourage you to begin taking action immediately.
If your hackles are up, please consider emailing Secretary Jewell and your representatives. The National Wolfwatcher Coalition offers helpful talking points.
- Email Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
- Contact your members in the House of Representatives and Senate
- With just one click you can amplify your voice of opposition to USFWS's by joining California Wolf Center's Thunderclap
Thank you for your support!