The Obama Administration once again is ready to declare victory in the recovery of the gray wolf.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to remove the gray wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species. The Service is also proposing to maintain protection and expand recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf in the Southwest, where it remains endangered.
Under the proposal, states would resume responsibility for wolf management as Idaho already has done. It would delist wolves in Oregon and Washington. California, Utah and Nevada would have to decide whether they want wolves again as will states like Colorado, North and South Dakota and Nebraska.
“An exhaustive review of the latest scientific and taxonomic information shows that we have accomplished that goal with the gray wolf, allowing us to focus our work under the ESA on recovery of the Mexican wolf subspecies in the Southwest,” said Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe.
The Service will open a 90-day comment period on both proposals seeking additional scientific, commercial and technical information from the public.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, who used to hold Ashe’s job, expressed the deep disappointment of wildlife advocate groups for the decision by an administration they though would suppor them.
“Having just a few thousand wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes is a far cry from what many of us envisioned for gray wolf recovery when we embarked on this ambitious conservation effort nearly two decades ago,” Clark said. “Though wolf recovery has made significant progress so far, that is not an excuse to give up now when the job is only half done.
What Fish and Wildlife is saying is the scientific arguments are over and now wolf policy is going to be made by individual states. The decision has ramifications for many species protected by the Endangered Species Act so expect the lawsuits to follow.
“Without additional protection and resources from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, further gray wolf recovery in the United States may never occur,” Clark said.