I’ve been reading alot about the proposed delisting of the gray wolf from the list of endangered species, both here and in the popular press. The issue is fraught with much emotional baggage. It’s like abortion, most people already have an opinion. I seek not to change opinion (not here, not now) but rather to explain what is actually being proposed, and hopefully shed some light.
Similar to the Affordable Care Act or Chained CPI one can’t have a realistic view from which to judge what is being discussed if one hasn’t actually taken the time to look at and understand what is actually in the proposal. Before reading further I suggest anyone with an interest read the very short, one page, written in nontechnical language, news release by the USFWS http://www.fws.gov/...
even more helpful would be their FAQ here http://www.fws.gov/...
Above- Confirmed wolf packs 2/2/12 This entire area has already been delisted, this change will have no affect on these wolf packs
For the actual entire proposal look to the links at the bottom of this post.
The most common misconception I seem to hear is that this delisting is occurring in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes regions and will bring about massive killings of wolves. This proposal will have absolutely no affect on those two regions or on the well over 6,000 wolves in those regions. The delisting is not for Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, or the Eastern portions of Oregon and Washington. Those states or portions of states are already delisted. This proposal is not about them.
The FWS (United States Fish and Wildlife Service) proposal boils down to two pieces, one about populations, and the other about species.
Population wise the FWS met it’s population goals for delisting fifteen years ago, and maintained and exceeded those goals for three years as required for delisting a dozen years ago. (and should have delisted then in my opinion) Under the ESA (Endangered Species Act) the FWS is under no obligation to restore a species to it’s entire historic range. If you can imagine depopulating Los Angeles to make way for large carnivores I’m sure you can understand why. Instead the ESA requires there to be large sustainable populations. They met, then far exceeded, those goals long ago.
The second part is more technical. It involves the classification of species, and is more the realm of scientists but I’ll take the pertinent block quote and link. In a nutshell they are saying the gray wolf never lived in 29 eastern states.
In addition, we recognize recent taxonomic information indicating that the gray wolf subspecies, Canis lupus lycaon, which occurs in southeastern Canada and historically occurred in the northeastern United States and portions of the upper Midwest (eastern and western Great Lakes regions) United States, should be recognized as a separate species, Canis lycaon.and now some hypothetical questions that I hear raised all the time.
Does this mean hunters and ranchers will have free reign to just go out and
murder, trap and torture cull even more wolves? No, the proposed areas for delisting currently have no wolves. The delisting is for places wolves don’t yet occur.
How can we delist when they are killing wolves by the thousands in the Northern Rockies and soon there will be no wolves? It takes a lot to decrease a wolf populations, last year for the first time numbers decreased by single digits. That’s not much for a species that averaged a doubling of population every three years throughout the listed years. All states currently delisted will always have healthy wolf populations under current rules.
Yes but in Wyoming they can shoot wolves on sight, how can they carefully manage a population when they have no control over how many are shot or trapped? 90% of the wolves in Wyoming are not in the “predator zone”. Most of the wolves are in the managed big game area. Wyoming has a special area where no wolves or any other animal can be hunted, ever, it’s called Yellowstone National Park. So almost all the wolves in Wyoming are in an area that is strictly regulated and those wolves in the predator zone are still quantified after being culled.
All this is well and good but isn’t the US Fish and Wildlife Service is in the pocket of rich ranchers and hunting orgs who pay their bills? The USFWS is financed from tax dollars in the general fund. The median income for ranchers is $40K, they are not rich. Likewise hunting groups don’t sue government agencies and take them to court. If anything environmental groups have much more influence. The former director of the USFWS has worked for Defenders of Wildlife ever since leaving the government. Defenders is a radical environmental lobbying and litigation group.
If wolves don't live in the areas they are being delisted in why do they need to delist?
Once species are recovered they devote resources where they are more needed maybe. This delves more into opinion and conjecture and is best left to future post.
The fine print of the proposal itself
References for delisting (danger, very large PDF of different studies) http://www.regulations.gov/...