Wolf Scientists Howl About Wolf Delisting


Given our recent discussions about ESA, I thought this article here by Bob Berwyn was very interesting.

Federal wildlife agencies are under intense pressure from states to turn over wolf management. Congress has already set the stage for political interference in the wolf recovery process, and that step has put the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service at the edge of a very slippery slope. Any proposal to de-list wolves is likely to face significant opposition and legal challenges from conservation advocates.

Congress has “set the stage” for “political interference”? But isn’t when and where species should be managed open for public (“political”) discussion? Didn’t Congress, in fact, determine what is in ESA?

Here’s a quote from the scientists’ letter..

“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.”

So it sounds like the scientists (which I’m not sure tracks with the ESA legislation) think recovery means they need to go back everywhere there’s “suitable habitat”. I would argue that the “ecosystem” I live in seems to be doing OK without wolves.. and who would judge that? Since ecosystems are a human idea imposed on the planet, I guess it’s up to anyone to argue one way or another and I would think wolf biologists might not be the folks to ask about how an “ecosystem” is doing. And it also seems like they if they are not everywhere, in the long-term wolves cannot survive. I don’t know what the rationale is for that but if they are doing fine, and expanding their ranges now… I just don’t get why designating suitable habitat everywhere is necessary..

Here’s a quote from a previous post here:

With Endangered Species Act protection, states like Oregon and Washington could decide they don’t want any wolves at all. Utah, Colorado, and California and Northeastern states could decide never to pursue wolf restoration, foreclosing the possibility of recovery in large parts of gray wolves’ historic range.

“The Obama administration is giving up on gray wolf recovery before the job is done. How can they declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ when gray wolves still face significant threats throughout their range,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife and a former Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Wolves in the Pacific Northwest have only just begun to recover, and there are no wolf populations in Utah and Colorado. Places like the Olympic peninsula in Washington state and the Colorado Rockies would benefit both ecologically and economically from the return of wolves. We shouldn’t be closing the door on an incredible opportunity to revitalize some of America’s best remaining suitable wolf habitat by bringing back these important iconic animals,” she said.

“Gray wolves once ranged in a continuous population from Canada all the way down to Mexico, and we shouldn’t give up on this vision until they are restored … But now, politics has been allowed to trump sound science, and the future recovery of America’s wolves is being tossed up in the air once again. It is truly sad that the Obama administration has chosen this path and short-circuited what could and should have been a tremendous conservation success for our nation,” she concluded.

Wow! “Science” tells us that wolves and grizzlies have to be reintroduced everywhere they used to be? Doesn’t sound like a science question to me..sounds to me like plain old preference and values, which generally tends to be mediated through.. our elected officials.

8 thoughts on “Wolf Scientists Howl About Wolf Delisting”

  1. Wonder whatever happened to distinctions made between not just occupied vs unoccupied but also between suitable and essential where essential was determined “scientifically” based on what was deemed necessary to “recover” the endangered species?

  2. Giant Sequoias and dawn redwoods had MUCH more extensive ranges in the past. Should we “re-introduce” populations big enough to “ensure their survival”? If people in New York City are so enamored with their redtail hawks, just think how fascinated they would be with a re-introduced wolfpack, in Central Park. Suitable? Yes, if you ignore human values! Grizzly bears in Tahoe?!? You KNOW they won’t be able to resist the wonderful smell of BBQ-ed steak, chicken or tofu. They are slaves to their noses, thanks to “natural selection”.

  3. Public Employees Sue Over ‘Political Deals’ Behind Wolf Delisting


    WASHINGTON, DC, May 22, 2013 (ENS) – The Obama Administration’s plan to remove the gray wolf from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, as detailed in a draft Federal Register notice released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER, is temporarily on hold.

    The reasons for the indefinite delay announced this week were not revealed nor were the records of closed-door meetings to craft this plan that began in August 2010.

    Today a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain the records from those meetings was filed by PEER, a nonprofit national alliance of local, state and federal resource professionals.

    The draft Federal Register notice would strike the gray wolf from the federal list of threatened or endangered species but would keep endangered status for the Mexican wolf. No protected habitat would be delineated for the Mexican wolf, of which fewer than 100 remain in the wild.

    This step is the culmination of what officials call their National Wolf Strategy, developed in a series of federal-state meetings called Structured Decision Making, SDM. Tribal representatives declined to participate.

    On April 30, 2012, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for all SDM meeting notes, handouts and decision documents. More than a year later, the agency has not produced any of the requested records, despite a legal requirement that the records be produced within 20 working days.

    Today, PEER filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to obtain all of the SDM documents.

  4. De-listing can occur if the wolf is no longer ‘in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range’ (as defined in ESA). The term ‘historic’ is not part of this definition. The ‘significant portion of its range’ language has been an issue, but in order to de-list the northern Rockies wolves, the FWS defined them as a ‘distinct population segment,’ which allowed them to look only at the status of wolves in and around Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. That made it easier to support de-listing this DPS, but may make it hard for them to argue that wolves outside of this population are recovered. (I think the wolves are showing us that there are no biologically distinct population segments of grey wolves in the west, and that Congress has made things more complicated by legislatively adopting the FWS position.)

    • I’m sure I said it before, but a huge thank you, Jon, for your participation in this blog and these discussions. You bring some much-needed legal context to many of these discussions and debates, and what you posted above (especially pointing out that “historic” is not part of the definition) is just one such example. Thanks again and please keep posting.

    • I totally agree with Matthew, a great thank you, Jon, and please keep posting.

      How is it decided what is “significant” compared to “historic”?

      • Former habitats that no longer have adequate and sustainable “natural” prey cannot continue to be considered for wolf habitat. That would surely rule out much of the wolves’ former range. Same for grizzlies.

        • Aren’t deer populations throughout much of the East, South, Great Lakes region and Midwest through the roof (or literally through the car windshield, as the case might be)? Just saying….


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