photo credit ~ Gary Kramer
The NYTimes announced today that the Obama administration has give the go-ahead to a formal delisting of all gray wolves in the lower 48 states from the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Decisions on the wolves' welfare, including whether and when to establish licensed hunting and trapping seasons, will devolve to the wildlife agencies of individual states.
According to Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, "We have seen what happens when premature delisting leaves wolves to the mercy of anti-wolf politics and politicians who are unwilling to protect them. In Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, more than 1,100 wolves have been shot or trapped since losing ESA protection in 2011. And we have seen some of Yellowstone National Park's most iconic and beloved wolves shot and killed just [outside] the park border."
Leaving wolf management up to the states is, over the long term, a death sentence. Without federal protection, it is all too easy for sports hunters, ranchers, and professional trappers to lobby state officials, who are themselves predisposed to eliminating wolves. Rare individuals within those groups are informed about the science and biology of predators in general, and wolves in particular. Most are willfully ignorant.
Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity had this reaction ~ "The proposal concludes that wolf protection in the continental United States, in place since 1978, is no longer needed, even though there are fledgling populations in places like the Pacific Northwest whose survival hinges on continued federal protection. This is like kicking a patient out of the hospital when they're still attached to life support. Wolves cling to a sliver of their historic habitat in the lower 48, and now the Obama administration wants to arbitrarily declare victory and move on. They need to finish the job that Americans expect, not walk away the first chance they get. This proposal is a national disgrace. Our wildlife deserves better."
Wolves today occupy just 5 percent of their historic habitat in the continental U.S. Today's proposal means that wolves will never fully reoccupy prime wolf habitat in the southern Rocky Mountains, California, or the Northeast, and it will hinder ongoing recovery in the Pacific Northwest.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), which administers ESA protection and issued the federal delisting proposal under White House direction, must take public comments for the next 90 days. I urge everyone to go over their heads and contact Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell here, demanding that delisting gray wolves be removed from consideration. The world's leading wolf researchers, biodiversity ecologists, and nature lovers everywhere agree, it is a catastrophic idea ~ not just for the wolves, but also for the health of their prey populations and of the ecosystems which all inhabit. The plan is based on politics, not on science.
"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [and women] to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke