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This is an update to my June 11th Wolves: "Mission Accomplished" diary. It was too early to post the Government Comment link on this issue. Thanks to Patriot Daily News ClearingHouse for providing it in last Saturday's Green Diary Rescue.

>>>>>>>You can contribute a COMMENT here until September 11, 2013.<<<<<<<


Removing Wolves from the Endangered Species Act


On June 7, 2013 in a Friday news dump
The Fish and Wildlife Service unveiled a proposal to eliminate the remaining restrictions across the country, saying wolves are flourishing again. The only populations to have protection, under the proposal, would be Mexican wolves in southern Arizona and New Mexico and a small experimental population in North Carolina.

The announcement by Daniel M. Ashe, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, marked the imminent end of 50 years of controversial efforts to bring back a predator that once roamed the continent but had been all but exterminated in the United States by the mid-20th century.In my last diary i purposely used the phrase Mission Accomplished in the title. This is an update to that diary with information for comments to the government about their delisting of the Gray Wolf.

Mission Accomplished
The image of the government declaring "Mission Accomplished" is etched in Americans’ minds, and not in a good way. Just as former President George W. Bush was wrong when he made that announcement about the Iraq war, the feds might well be wrong in declaring the gray wolf no longer in need of protection in the West.
Advocates for delisting the wolf say management decisions should be made at the state level, not by federal agencies, now that the reintroduction process is complete. The problem with state-level decisions is that in the minds of many officials, "management" of the wolf is synonymous with "eradicating" the animal. For example, Wyoming’s proposed management plan essentially allowed anyone to shoot any wolf on sight for any reason. That’s not management.

The Science on Wolves

Sylvia Fallon, a senior scientist and director of the wildlife conservation program with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the move would effectively slam the door on wolf recovery nationwide.

“With continued protection, there’s great potential for them to return to their native range across the West and Northeast,” she said. “By stripping those needed protections, this proposal would leave wolves out in the cold. We urge the agency to take a hard look at the science and reconsider.”

Scientists Call on Obama Administration to Keep Gray Wolves Protected Under Endangered Species Act
Biologists Say Proposal to Remove Protections Fails to Follow Best Science

“The science simply doesn’t support removal of protections for wolves,” said Dr. Brad Bergstrom with the American Society of Mammalogists. “Wolves are altogether absent or barely beginning to recover in large swathes of the country that still contain excellent habitat.”

Signatories to the letter include several scientists who conducted research that’s relied on by the government in its draft proposed rule. Those scientists are now criticizing the agency for misrepresenting their work, stating: “Collectively, we represent many of the scientists responsible for the research referenced in the draft rule,” and “We do not believe that the rule reflects the conclusions of our work or the best available science concerning the recovery of wolves.”

Proposed ending of federal gray wolf protection: Another case of setting science aside?
Exerpt from a letter from 16 scientists sent to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Daniel M. Ashe, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The letter raises four issues bearing on the science-policy relationship including:

1) Removal of the gray wolf from the List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife

The gray wolf has barely begun to recover or is absent from significant portions of its former range where substantial suitable habitat remains. The Service’s draft rule fails to consider science identifying extensive suitable habitat in the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast. It also fails to consider the importance of these areas to the long-term survival and recovery of wolves, or the importance of wolves to the ecosystems of these regions.

2) Maintain endangered status for the Mexican wolf by listing it as a subspecies

Although the taxonomic distinctness of the Mexican wolf is well-supported, and we thus support subspecific listing as appropriate, the draft rule fails to delineate the geographic extent of the area in which wolves would receive protection, specifying only that Mexican wolves would beprotected “where found”. Genetic analysis of historic Mexican wolves showed that the range of the Mexican wolf likely extended beyond the historic range initially inferred from limited record data. At the same time, the Service has inexplicably delayed completion of the recovery plan for the Mexican wolf, the draft of which had concluded that habitat to the north of the current recovery area may be essential for recovery of the subspecies. The lack of specificity in the rule, coupled with past actions by the Service, encourages continued efforts by stakeholders to block recovery actions essential to recover a subspecies that is among the most endangered mammals in North America.

The letter concludes:

The extirpation of wolves and large carnivores from large portions of the landscape is a global phenomenon with broad ecological consequences. There is a growing body of scientific literature demonstrating that top predators play critical roles in maintaining a diversity of other wildlife species and as such the composition and function of ecosystems. Research in Yellowstone National Park, for example, found that reintroduction of wolves caused changes in elk numbers and behavior which then facilitated recovery of streamside vegetation, benefitting beavers, fish and songbirds. In this and other ways, wolves shape North American landscapes.

Given the importance of wolves and the fact that they have only just begun to recover in some regions and not at all in others, we hope you will reconsider the Service’s proposal to remove protections across most of the United States.

Westren politicians and livestock ranchers do not find this message congenial. For them, it is too pro-wolf, too in favor of increasing wolf populations and geographic ranges.

During the comment period the Interior Department can expect to hear from those who support the views expressed by the scientists, and by environmental and conservation groups. Our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity issued this statement on June 7 (excerpt)




Background


Basic Facts
Population
There are an estimated 7,000 to 11,200 wolves in Alaska and more than 5,000 in the lower 48 states. Around the world there are an estimated 200,000 in 57 countries, compared to up to 2 million in earlier times.

Range
Wolves were once common throughout all of North America but were killed in most areas of the United States by the mid 1930s. Today their range has been reduced to Canada and the following portions of the United States: Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Mexican wolves are found in New Mexico and Arizona.

In April 2011 Congress attached a rider to a must-pass budget bill that stripped Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in all of Montana and Idaho, the eastern third of Washington and Oregon, and a small portion of northern Utah — an unprecedented action that, for the first time in the history of the Act, removed a species from the endangered list by political fiat instead of science. Wolves were delisted in Wyoming, as well, in September 2012. The Fish and Wildlife Service also removed protections from wolves in the Great Lakes region. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin have begun public wolf hunting and/or trapping, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating with state agencies, is expanding its program of trapping, radio-collaring and releasing, then aerial gunning the pack-mates of these collared wolves — a program that, while wolves were protected by the Act, had been limited to those that preyed on livestock.
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You can contribute a COMMENT here until September 11, 2013.

Originally posted to DK GreenRoots on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Public Lands, Wildlife Endangered and Threatened, and DFH writers group.

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