The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday it plans to stop protecting the gray wolf and put the states in charge of managing these predators. But the plan is already facing some tough opposition from wolf advocate groups that say it’s too early for this discussion. EarthFix reporter Aaron Kunz explains.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to take the gray wolf off the endangered species list because its recovery represents a success story. This is director Dan Ashe, talking with reporters on a conference call.
Ashe: “Our analysis suggests that the gray wolf no longer faces the threat of extinction or requires the protection of the Endangered Species Act.”
But that’s not the way conservation groups see it. Some wildlife advocates are wondering what this means for states that don’t yet have wolves in big numbers like Oregon, Washington and Utah.
Suzanne Stone represents Defenders of Wildlife.
Stone: “With the federal delisting that they are talking about - pulling federal protections from wolves before there are even wolves on the ground in some of the best wolf habitat in the western United States.”
Stone’s offices are in Idaho, where the wolf population last year was nearly 700. She is concerned that wolf hunting in Idaho and Wyoming will keep them from migrating into neighboring states of Utah and Colorado, or expanding their small populations in Oregon and Washington. Those two Northwest states had a combined population of about 100 wolves.
Wolves won’t actually be off the Endangered Species list for at least a year. This plan still has a lengthy process to navigate, including a public comment period. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe says he’s confident that even states without large populations of wolves will be able to manage wolves on their own.
Ashe: “In the Pacific Northwest for example, wolves will continue to be protected by state endangered species laws in both Washington and Oregon. And science-driven management of these states to protect and manage wolves across their future ranges.”
The proposed delisting won’t change things in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. That’s because the federal government has already dropped its endangered species protections for wolves in those states. They now have their own wolf management plans. Dan Ashe says his agency plans to monitor wolves in all states for five years. He expects the states to manage wolf hunts just like any other big game like elk and deer to sustain populations and keep populations in check.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will open the comment period for the proposed delisting when the proposals publish in the Federal Register, scheduled for this week. Once that period opens, they will provide instructions for submitting comments on the proposals.
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