Should Wolves Stay Protected Under Endangered Species Act?

Little Bird’s question about the black-backed woodpecker reminded me of this opinion piece in Yale 360 by Ted Williams that I had in my to-be-posted pile. I am still wondering how ESA got from protecting endangered species, to requiring that they be recovered everywhere in their historic range. For wide-ranging species it seems like a leap. And it seems like that idea is only applied intermittently; like not to grizzlies in central California.

Here’s the link.

By 2008 the recovery goal for the northern Rockies – 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in each of the three states (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho) – had been exceeded by at least 300 percent. But there are some environmental groups that want nothing delisted ever. Leading the pack is the Center for Biological Diversity which sues to list or keep listed everything that traversed Noah’s plank, studied or unstudied, then collects attorney fees from taxpayers. Amos Eno, who worked at the service’s Endangered Species Office crafting the amendments that strengthened the act, contends that the federal government could “recover and delist three dozen species” with the resources it spends responding to the center’s litigation.


Under ESA protection, Minnesota wolves colonized Wisconsin and Michigan until, in 2007, the recovery goal for the three-state population had not only been met but had nearly tripled, requiring delisting. But the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies got a court order blocking this needed, mandated action. So the service fought back, again turning up the politics; and in 2011 it succeeded with delisting. By doing so it preserved ESA integrity, credibility, and funding.

Today, thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and no thanks to the perennial plaintiffs, there are an estimated 1,674 wolves in the northern Rockies and 4,432 in the Lake States. That’s the greatest success story in the history of wildlife restoration.

39 thoughts on “Should Wolves Stay Protected Under Endangered Species Act?”

  1. Hello: I’d just like to point out that Ted Williams, the author of the Yale 360 article which is highlighted in this post, seems to have a special vitriol for of the Center for Biological Diversity.

    Here’s some of the previous back-n-forth between Williams and the CBD.

    Also, if we are highlighting portions of Mr. Williams article, we might as well highlight some Kieran Suckling’s responses to the article.

    This article is riddled with errors, omissions and a meanness of spirit not befitting the otherwise excellent Yale Environment 360.

    Williams asserts that the Center for Biological Diversity “leads the pack” among groups who “want nothing delisted ever.” In fact, the Center supported 13 of the 16 the delisting decisions and proposals issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the past five years. It has a long history of pushing to get species on the brink of recovery over the final hump and off the endangered species list.

    He asserts that the Fish and Wildlife Service introduced wolves to Yellowstone as a “experimental non-essential” population to the “the general horror of the environmental community.” In fact, the introduction was praised by The Wolf Fund and Defenders of Wildlife (see Associated Press, Final rules for wolves praised, Environmental groups like “guarantee clause’, 11/25/1994), called a “livable compromise” by the Sierra Club (Associated Press, Bureau expected to sue over wolf plan, 11/24/1994) and “something many people out there have been looking forward to and working on for years – bringing a major predator back to the system after it’s been gone for 60 years” by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (Colorado Springs Gazette, After 60 years, wolves coming home, 11/27/1994).

    Williams falsely claims that Earthjustice sued to strike down the experimental non-essential designation of Yellowstone’s introduced wolves. The Earthjustice suit challenged the stripping away of protection from Yellowstone’s naturally occurring, wild wolves, it did not seek to change the status of the introduced wolves.

    Williams borders on malice in saying the case resulted in a court order requiring Yellowstone’s wolves to be killed excepting the intervention of the National Wildlife Federation to oppose Earthjustice’s efforts. The case to cancel the reintroduction effort and have Yellowstone’s wolves removed or killed was filed by the livestock industry and is entitled “Wyoming Farm Bureau v. Babbitt, 987 F. Supp. 1349 (D. Wyo. 1997).” The judge’s ruling was indeed opposed by the National Wildlife Federation, but as Williams knows perfectly
    well, it was also opposed by Earthjustice indeed, it was the latter which appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit. For more information, see summaries by the Department of Justice
    ( and Earthjustice (

    Finally Williams’ vitriolic salvo—“environmental litigators are also political ignoramuses and ecological illiterates…. Thank God for thoughtful, practical groups like the NWF”—is misleading: not only is NWF an environmental litigator, it sued to stop wolf delisting (see National Wildlife Federation v. Norton, 386 F.Supp.2d 553 (D. Vt. 2005).

    Mr. Williams has been called out on several occasions over the years for making outrageous claims, false statements, and relying on dubiously “anonymous” quotations. It is disappointing to see Yale Environment 360 get enmeshed with his divisive, bitter and misleading style of commentary. Caustic rants are a service to no one.

    Kieran Suckling
    Executive Director
    Center for Biological Diversity


    Yes, Ted, I do want to rewrite your “history” because it is wrong.

    I note that you didn’t respond to the fact that the Center has supported 81 percent final and proposed delisting rules even though you claimed we “want nothing delisted ever.”

    It is disingenuous to claim that you “never reported that Earthjustice sued to strike down the experimental non-essential designation of introduced Yellowstone wolves.” We can all read exactly what you wrote above:

    “[Fish and Wildlife Service] designated the transplanted wolves a “non-essential experimental population,” thereby allowing ranchers to shoot any that ranged outside the park and were seen attacking livestock – this to the general horror of the environmental community…In an effort to get full endangered status for Yellowstone wolves, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now Earthjustice) sued the service on behalf of the National Audubon Society, convincing a federal judge in 1997 to strike down the designation of the Yellowstone population as non-essential.”

    Earthjustice sued to prevent natural, wild wolves in Idaho from being managed as experimental non-essential. It did not seek to strike down the designation of the Yellowstone wolves. And yes, the Idaho wolves did exist, it ludicrous to say they were “non-existent.”

    It is also ludicrous to double down on the false statement that the Earthjustice suit resulted in order to strike down the Yellowstone designation and kill all the wolves. That happened due to a case brought by the Wyoming Farm Bureau. Indeed, since I already provided you with links to case summaries by the U.S. Department of Justice and Earthjustice, your continued assertion is more than ludicrous, it is malicious. Here is how the Department of Justice, which argued the case, describes it:

    “Following the denial of a preliminary injunction motion, the Federal District Court in Wyoming overseeing the litigation involving the Service’s reintroduction of wolves into YNP and central Idaho held that the reintroduction as an experimental species had been improper and declared that the wolves must be removed from YNP and central Idaho. Wyoming Farm Bureau v. Babbitt, 987 F. Supp. 1349 (D. Wyo. 1997).” (

    This tracks exactly with how Earthjustice describes the case:

    “The litigation before Judge Downes consists of three lawsuits concerning the Fish and Wildlife Service’s importation of wolves from Canada and their release in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. In their suit, the National Audubon Society plaintiffs challenged the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to withdraw Endangered Species Act protection for naturally occurring wolves in central Idaho… Judge Downes issued his removal order in response to the Farm Bureaus’ requests, but ruled that it will not go into effect until the federal Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has considered appeals of his decision…The unfortunate reality is that our case got combined, against our wishes, with that of the Farm Bureau. We are trying to enhance the recovery of wolves in central Idaho the Farm Bureau is trying to stop wolf recovery in both Yellowstone and central Idaho.”

    It also disingenuous to acknowledge the role of Earthjustice is getting Downes’ ruling overturned. You know very well that Earthjustice appealed the decision and argued the case before the 10th circuit. You don’t acknowledge that because it contradicts the story you invented to defame them. Thus you lay all the credit with another group which did not appeal the decision, but only intervened in the proceedings. That is purposefully misleading.

    Regarding litigation and the Endangered Species Act, here is what the current director the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says:

    “Can I get frustrated at [Center for Biological Diversity] and WildEarth Guardians, or my good friend Jamie Clark at Defenders [of Wildlife] when they decide to sue us? Yeah, I can. But on balance, I think it’s a strength for the Endangered Species Act, and not a weakness. On the scale of the challenges that we face implementing the Endangered Species Act, litigation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen.” (E&E News, “Lawsuits not hurting Endangered Species Act — FWS director”, 7/5/12).

    Ted, you know Dan Ashe’s position very well. It is not the first time you’ve seen this quote. Yet, you refuse to print it because it contradicts your one-sided diatribe. Instead you recycle supposed quotes from “anonymous” sources that just happen to fit the diatribe perfectly.

    Kieran Suckling
    Executive Director
    Center for Biological Diversity

  2. Not all agree “perennial plaintiffs” played no role in the current population of wolves. Hal Herring’s May 30, 2011, piece in High Country News included this statement:

    “The lawsuits on behalf of the Northern Rockies wolves have had one undeniably good result: They kept maximum protections in place for as long as possible and gave the wolf population time to increase to today’s levels. And that might prove to be a crucial factor in the long-term success of their recovery.”

    Here is the link:

    While Herring’s thesis may be that litigation contributed to de-listing, he acknowledges litigation played a significant role in getting populations to where they are.

    Recovery has always been one of the primary goals of the ESA. But has anyone seriously proposed “recovering” wolves or another species to Central California? Aren’t discussions more geared toward recovering listed species where there is arguably adequate habitat, adequate prey/food, and relatively low human populations? The wolf’s historic range may have included Central California, but I don’t think any serious suggestions have been made that the San Joaquin Valley is expected to support populations of the wolf, let alone the grizzly bear now. The Sierras, Cascades and Eastern Washington and Oregon, Olympic Peninsula, Great Basin, Central Rockies, perhaps.

    • John, thanks for your comment. I don’t know if litigation used to be helpful and is not now, or never was, or whatever as I don’t follow it. But the interesting thing to me was that Ted was suggesting that the idea that “politics is bad in western states and not the way to go about doing things, because of their primitive impulses they will just shoot everything” (maybe that’s an overstatement) is not effective; instead of dismissing them and trying to cudgel them into submission with litigation. by acknowledging their concerns FWS did a good job of ultimately getting a good outcome and not leaving a lot of unnecessary blood around.

      So I am interested in social justice for those who live in areas with “relatively low human populations.” That’s how they ended up with uranium mines is that some folks felt that it was important to have uranium but it shouldn’t be in populated areas. Well now some folks want grizzlies or wolves, but not in populated areas. Do you see the sense in which either proposal (uranium or carnivores) inadvertently treats the current residents as objects to be displaced for the “greater good” and not as people with self-determination for their land?

      Not to speak of the fact that when animals are reintroduced, then the focus is on stopping people from doing what they were doing before that the animal might not like. So one could wonder why is it more important to stop timber harvesting, in say, Montana, for grizzlies than to move people out of otherwise potential grizzly habitat in California?

      Maybe it’s just the costs, but if that’s so, then the places with fewer people or lower property values will always lose, and then we shouldn’t be saying “it’s about science.” We should say ” it’s what’s expedient politically” or “it’s the most economic way to get back the greatest number of different populations of the animal.”

      But still that is not “saving it from extinction” as most people think of ESA.

      • Notions of “social justice” and “self-determination for their land” more quickly bring indigenous people to my mind rather than a rancher whose family may have lived in an area for a century. But that’s another train of thought. I’m primarily thinking of public lands that we all now share – BLM lands, national forests, national parks, etc.

        I find rural living admirable, enjoyable, and preferable in many ways, having grown up in the woods over 100 miles from the nearest town of more than 20,000. But rural living is also a luxury that not all can afford for a variety of reasons, and that our environment could not support given our current national population over 300 million. Many folks in rural areas benefited in some ways from the eradication of certain species over the last century, particularly large carnivores. But the benefits they experience income-wise should not alone justify blocking progress toward national goals of recovering species in habitat that could otherwise support it. The past eradication of species cost us as a society a significant amount in terms of biodiversity. Continuing to keep species out of habitat that would otherwise be an acceptable place to facilitate its recovery could be likened to an ongoing subsidy for those that don’t want the species nearby. If we accepted all the decisions of our ancestors without question and chose to never alter our behavior or consider alternative points of view, where would we be as a nation?

        Over the course of U.S. history, has anyone had any assurances that his or her way of life (occupation, place of residence) would not be subject to change? No aspect of our society is static (just like nature). Manufacturing and resource extraction booms, busts, and goes to other countries. Interstates get built, displacing homes. Some businesses succeed for spells of time and then cease to operate due to changing social preferences and needs. Congress changes our laws and compels everyone to adjust. Practices and requirements change in every industry based on evolving understandings of safety, environmental health, and impacts to our surroundings.

        I don’t like what happened to nearby residents from uranium mines either. But the government’s and industry’s placement of mines to extract radioactive minerals doesn’t quite seem an apt comparison to allowing the recovery of a species to otherwise suitable habitat it once occupied. Are the impacts all that comparable? It seems logical that location feasibility and habitat suitability would be considered in species recovery.

        • John: Just to be clear, there is zero evidence that removing large carnivores from the landscape “cost” the US anything, much less harmful loss of “biodiversity.” Radiation has the advantage of being easy to define and measure. “Biodiversity” has been mostly a political issue since it was first invented. I did a pretty good job of trying to define it and measure it in my Master’s thesis (using a 15,000-acre land base), but all of the measures showed it had increased since settlement, due to the persistence of native species and the introduction of hundreds of new grass, food, and flower species. Just one more “scientific” lip service term used to measure “ecosystem services” and other new approaches to shutting the woods down. In my opinion.

          • Congress found that threatened and endangered “species of fish, wildlife, and plants are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people” in Section 2(a)(3) of the Endangered Species Act. “Cost” doesn’t just mean in dollar terms, but I’m sure an economist has attempted to calculate it at some point. I don’t think the introduction of non-native species could or should be used to counter-balance the loss of native species when considering the overall status of any given landscape. And aren’t all terms “invented” to describe and categorize our observations, etc.?

            • Yes. categorizations are all artificial, unless they become biological, such as eating or breeding. That stuff is pretty real, and provides critical and basic information. Too, all of the adjectives that are used would seemingly apply to elk, eagles, salmon, and so on. But obscure bugs or weird colored crawdads in a Louisiana bayou? Not sure they apply at all.

        • John

          Re: “has anyone had any assurances that his or her way of life (occupation, place of residence) would not be subject to change”
          —> Agree, but if you believe that then you also have to believe that that applies to all other species as well instead of “recovery of a species to otherwise suitable habitat it once occupied”

  3. Didn’t we already discuss the Suckling links here a few years ago?

    I remember when Suckling used to post his own comments here and participate in the discussions and didn’t need Matthew to carry his water for him. And Matthew (reasonably) has refused to back the words of others in his posts in the past. Seems like a little self-promotion and rationale here, without the consequences of anyone needing to actually support the statements.

    • Bob: I didn’t even know about the latest Williams piece at the Yale 360 until I saw Sharon had posted it here. So I clicked on the link, noticed a lot of good comments (see the PhD wolf researcher comments, for example), including some comments from Suckling. I too recalled the back and forth in the past between Williams/Suckling and did a little search of this blog’s archives, but couldn’t locate anything, so instead I linked to the dueling oped and comments section over at HCN.


      I remember when Suckling used to post his own comments here and participate in the discussions and didn’t need Matthew to carry his water for him. And Matthew (reasonably) has refused to back the words of others in his posts in the past. Seems like a little self-promotion and rationale here, without the consequences of anyone needing to actually support the statements.

      WTF’s up with that bit there Bob? I’m not carrying water for Suckling any more than Sharon is carrying it for Williams. I’m simply trying to alert people to entirely more context and information then was in the original post linking to Williams article. Isn’t that what blogging and comments sections are supposed to be all about? So why give me a hard time about it?

      Seriously, I’m getting tired of the little game some of you play every time I try and post opeds, press releases, research, etc from other activists, organizations, scientists, etc. I don’t speak for those individuals or organizations anymore than any of you speak on behalf of other people who’s work or ideas you might highlight here on the blog. If you want to debate their words, opinions and ideas, track them down and debate them, or invite them over to participate in this blog. I share plenty of my own thoughts and opinions on this blog, I’d like to continue providing info, press releases, research, context, etc from other activists, organizations and scientists without someone like Bob, or Gil, being a prick about it. Thanks.

      • Matt: Nice comeback! Very professional. Reminds me of the time I quoted one of the writers of one of your posts as being a “tool” and you came totally unglued. Until you realized I was just quoting the guy himself. Must be a Freudian thing.

        Yes, other people post things here all the time that has been written by others. The differences is, when challenged on key points they either argue for or against them (often within the original post itself), depending on their position. You have been called out several times by me, Gil, and others, for disavowing yourself of any involvement at all — for or against — statements you have posted. That’s the difference. Plus you have a real knack for name-calling, unnecessary rudeness, and condescending remarks while stating your disavowals. Is this just your way of trolling for attention, or what?

        Suckling has a lot of crap in his statements — many of which have been discussed here in the past. So he has you post his self-serving rationales, you refuse to discuss them at all, and somehow argue we should be seeking out Suckling to get our answers. Big Question: why even post it in the first place?

        Here is a good example of where Suckling (and Williams) steps out of the shadows behind his water carrier:

        I’m just glad I didn’t repeat my Ted Williams joke in this discussion — one of the first things that came to mind.

        • Bob, that portion of my response to you wasn’t intended to be “very professional” because your comment to the group about me wasn’t “very professional.” Remember, I respond ‘in kind.’

          To single me out for supposedly having a “real knack for name-calling, unnecessary rudeness, and condescending remarks” ignores the name-calling, rude/condescending remarks that are often first directed my way. I wish I was a better person and could sit here and take this crap (like you’ve written above) from people like you, Gil and a few others, and respond with nothing but puppy dogs and ice creme, but I’m unable to do that. For Pete’s sake Bob, if you want to debate Suckling, hop on the Yale 360 blog and debate the man!

          Your expectations of me as a person – and as a moderator/poster of information on this blog – seem a little unrealistic….especially in the context of your own behavior, which at times is bizarre, rude and intimidating.

          I will continue to use this blog to post information, press releases, opeds, research, etc from activists, organizations, scientists and others. If you have a problem with that Bob…then I guess you have a problem with that Bob. Thanks.

          • Matt: Oh, yeah. I forgot the part where I called you a Dickhead. My apologies.

            Also for my previous claims regarding your bizarre, rude, and intimidating behavior.

            The only feeble excuse I can think of is that “I respond in kind.” Yeah, that’s it! Blame others for my own behavior — that’s always a good strategy. Until it’s run into the ground, maybe.

            Nap time, Matthew?

            • I’m not going to respond to you Bob. I’m going to go have dinner with my wife and family.

              Let me just say that anyone can look above at the chronology of the comments here. My comment #1 was completely professional, contextual and informative, directly related to the topic of the post. Meanwhile, Bob’s very first comment (#3 above) might be characterized as containing “unnecessary rudeness and condescending remarks.”

    • The reason I posted it is it is new in Yale 360 as of July 18. Thanks Steve for pointing out the back and forth, it was interesting.

      I would be more sympathetic to Mr. Suckling if he had not declared psychological warfare against my homies. And if the press releases of his organization were full of careful reasoning and facts. I understand how hard it is when folks say things about you that aren’t true…
      Here is the “psychological warfare” post from 2011.

      “(Lawsuits) are one tool in a larger campaign, but we use lawsuits to help shift the balance of power from industry and government agencies, toward protecting endangered species,” Suckling told HCN in 2009. “By obtaining an injunction to shut down logging or prevent the filling of a dam … we are in the position of being able to powerfully negotiate the terms. …”

      Suckling’s group often wins in court. But instead of helping various parties come to an agreement, as Gina does, Suckling wants to steamroll opponents: “New species listings and new bad press take a terrible toll on agency morale. When we stop the same timber sale three or four times running, the timber planners … feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed — and they are. So they become much more willing to play by our rules. … Psychological warfare is a very underappreciated aspect of environmental campaigning.”

      But as I reflect on it now, at least he’s honest about his motives and what his lawsuits are about.. changing policy. I really appreciate that …no “we’re litigating a 600 acre thinning project because we don’t think the FS analyzed lynx correctly.”

      Matthew, the other Williams reference is at the end of the above post.
      Others you can search on Suckling in the search box and find a variety of stuff.

  4. My head is whirling from all this back and forth and sticks and stones…
    Only thing I might comment on is that almost anything that Matt K. hangs out here for us to read is challenged in some manner by Bob Z. ??? Bad blood between you two?
    Obviously you both are oceans apart in your environmental views, but come on, lets be civil.
    Larry the “thinning guy” can drive me crazy at times with his one-note answer to almost any forest issue, but I try not to get my skivvies in a knot over it!!!
    Maybe it is time for Sharon to review some of these personal attacks more carefully before posting them…and do some red-lining?

    • Ed: I agree with the civil language thing, but it shouldn’t be Sharon’s job to ride herd on adults. For the record, I respond to things that are interesting to me, that I question, or that I disagree with. I can’t even imagine responding to a post based on who re-posted it — not enough years left on the planet for that kind of silliness. Apparently, since you started commenting here, Matt and I have expressed an interest in the same topics, which seems accurate enough. I can guarantee that I have not responded to the majority of his posts in past years, although there has been significant squabbling at times. Mostly when I’ve been forced to “respond in kind.”

      I’ve heard (and read) much worse — particularly in blogs where people mostly use pseudonyms. The last time this topic was raised on this blog, Matthew pointed out that the blog was then attracting a record number of viewers, which was true. Still happening.

  5. Sharon,

    The wolf topic seems to bring out an amazing visceral repsonse from people, as evidenced above, and in every previous post here having to do with wolves/wolf management….perhaps it’s just better left for the wildlife news, eh? They seem to do a lot of fair and balanced blogging over there.

    Can’t see where anything productive would come from discussing wolves/wolf management here, or anywhere, for that matter.

    • JZ: They are definitely pro-wolf (esp. Yellowstone wolves from Canada) and have little patience for differing viewpoints. Plus, almost all of them use pseudonyms, and in the discussion in which I participated, most of the 200+ posts were little more than idle chit-chat about beer brands and get-togethers and so on — and most of the posters seem to know perfectly well who was participating. Lots of “social texting” going on under the guise of “blogging,” with at least one major troll (“Mike”) sweeping the site, trying to fend away “outsiders.” The Admin of the blog, an Idaho professor at a university, said the answer to shooting barred owls was he “guessed” it was ok. “Why not?” A so-called professor from Wyoming or some such spent considerable effort trying to trivialize my record as a scientist (he remains anonymous of course), and used the excuse that if he exercised his “1st amendment rights” at the university, he would be fired!

      My personal experience only lasted a few days, but “fair and balanced” are NOT the adjectives I would use in describing the group. Plus, the blog design has been outdated for a few years. With the clear agenda and all the “insider” pseudonyms, it was like posting in a Global Warming blog three or four years ago.

      What are you seeing that I missed?

      • Oh no Bob! You didn’t really get on their site did you!?! I was being facetious! That’s about the biggest one sided anti-human crowd going! I scan it once and a while for entertainment and pointed it out as an example of zealotry….blogging gone bad. Lucky we generally stay above that level here and can entertain/debate/discuss a differing viewpoint.

        • Yup. I suspected you might be joking, but you suggested I send in a submission on an earlier post, so I did — mostly to see who they were and how they’d react, and whether you were being serious or facetious. After my feedback and experience (educational to some degree and kind of fun exposing their resident Troll “Mike”), I was hoping you were kidding. Hardly worth even monitoring, given all the pseudonyms and “insider” gossip and chit-chat. Even the moderator seems heavily biased. And no, they didn’t post my spotted owl submission.

      • What significance does the “from Canada” mention have regarding Yellowstone wolves? Are they not the same species as the wolves that lived in Yellowstone historically? Or is it about subspecies? In other posts I’ve seen you assert barred owls and spotted owls may be the same species because they interbreed, use similar territory, etc. Wouldn’t the reintroduced wolves from Canada have interbred with whatever wolves lived in Yellowstone 100 years ago? If so, why does the location of their origin matter in discussions? If the reintroduced wolves had come from Alaska (the U.S.), would that make a difference? That probably wasn’t feasible given the distance, and it doesn’t sound like there was an adequate population left in the lower 48 to draw from.

        • John: Wolves from Canada have the same meaning as hoot owls from the east, as you say. But it’s not my job to determine species. The implied question is: If we are going to spend millions of dollars having government hunters killing barred owls, shouldn’t we be shooting Canadian wolves, too? Too, if we wait long enough, it’s only a matter of time before the wolves start breeding with large dogs (and eating the smaller ones).

          • Are the reintroduced “Canadian” wolves causing problematic population declines for other listed species? Otherwise why would we shoot them like barred owls? The circumstances are not the same. Calling them “Canadian” wolves implies a political boundary between two countries has some significance to a species. Unless your point is that reintroductions should only ever come from some base population that still exists within a particular political boundary, I don’t see the connection. Wolves have probably already interbred with large dogs and eaten smaller ones over the course of history, I don’t think that will be a new phenomenon. Responsible pet ownership would seem to be a reasonable expectation for those that live near wolves, as with anywhere else.

            • John: That’s not the primary problem with wolves, although maybe it is a problem for other “listed species,” too. The problem with wolves is they kill a whole lot of species, not just those someone put on a list. That’s why people have always shot them as long as we’ve had guns. The breeding with dogs problem goes right back to the hoot owl conundrum. I call them “Canadian” because other people do. German shepherds, Peruvian hairless, and French poodles are other “species” using such nomenclature.

              • Who are these other people that call them “Canadian”? I’ve always seen and heard “gray wolf” as the common name for Canis lupus. Calling them “Canadian” seems meant to stir opposition to their presence as something “foreign,” unless there is some argument users of the term “Canadian wolves” are trying to make about subspecies. Canada is a big place with wolves from coast to coast. Are all Canadian wolves the same subspecies then? Is the boundary between the U.S. and Canada the definitive factor in that regard?


                • John: Have you heard of Mexican wolves, then? And if Canada has wall-to-wall wolves, why are they even on a “list” at all? (Rhetorical question. Takes it right back to your “politics.”)

                  • So, based on Google, the use of “Canadian” is mainly used in anti-wolf literature and websites, and has to do with the subspecies reintroduced in the 1990s. Why not just articulate that then? I’m aware of the Mexican gray wolf subspecies of Canis lupus and the experimental population in Arizona and New Mexico. But if you argue subspecies are really the same species and shouldn’t be protected under the ESA, why even bother calling them “Canadian” or making any mention that Yellowstone wolves came “from Canada”?

                    • I was making a point, John. And you’ve done it for me. People in the rural areas of the PNW have been against the importation of wolves from Canada since they were first informed that it had taken place. I guess you could call them “anti-wolf” or “pro-ranching” or something. There is no logic or consistency in this whole ESA industry, and I was just trying to add some insight and emphasis.

    • My point was articulated here in my comment 3

      That it was interesting because folks talk about “science good, politics bad” with regard to ESA and many species and Ted had a different take.
      It also was relevant to Pinchot’s maxim about not playing politics. Ted seemed to be saying that folks at FWS had played the political game skillfully. I’m sure there are many out there who would like to learn how to do that!

  6. It’s possible to better manage unruly wolves in estrus with birth control treatments called MGA (melengestrol acetate) and Deslorelin. These oral remedies have been proven to diminish the competitive behavior that females naturally demonstrate during the winter months.

    The technology exists to administer this drug to predators without capture even as western states are suing to force the USFWS to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list pressured by livestock producers and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks systematically extirpates cougars from that state under pressure from hunting industries who rely on tourist dollars.

  7. This just in from Greenwire:

    Interior excludes scientists critical of wolf delisting from peer review

    Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
    Published: Thursday, August 8, 2013

    The Interior Department has effectively blocked three scientists from participating in an independent peer review of its proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves after the scientists signed a May 21 letter criticizing the delisting plan.

    The move drew fire from environmentalists who argued the scientists are among the country’s leading wolf experts and were being purged from the review to stifle dissent.

    Environmental groups have opposed the Fish and Wildlife Service’s June proposal to delist wolves in all of the lower 48 states except parts of Arizona and New Mexico, where protections for Mexican wolves would be expanded.

    The scientists excluded from the peer review are Roland Kays of North Carolina State University, John Vucetich of Michigan Technological University and Robert Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles.

    They were among 16 scientists who signed the May 21 letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell arguing that the delisting rule flouts “the fundamental purpose of the Endangered Species Act to conserve endangered species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”

    “The gray wolf has barely begun to recover or is absent from significant portions of its former range where substantial suitable habitat remains,” the scientists wrote. “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.”

    Those three scientists were selected to review the decision by the international engineering and project management company AMEC, which had won a contract from FWS to lead the independent peer review.

    But in an email to the scientists yesterday, AMEC’s Melissa Greulich said FWS requested their removal, citing their involvement in the May 21 letter.

    “I apologize for telling you that you were on the project and then having to give you this news,” she said in the email obtained by Greenwire. “I understand how frustrating it must be, but we have to go with what the service wants. I assure you that the rest of our panelists do not lean towards the other side, and we hope they make a reasonable, unbiased decision.”

    Greulich did not immediately respond to a request for comment this morning.

    In response, FWS said it did not order the removal of any particular scientists from the peer review panel, though it did send a letter to AMEC raising concerns over whether the signatories to the letter would be sufficiently independent and objective. The same concerns would have been raised if the scientists’ letter supported the delisting proposal, FWS said.

    The ultimate decision to exclude Kays, Vucetich and Wayne from the review was AMEC’s, the agency said.

    “Objective and credible peer review is critical to the success of threatened and endangered species recovery and delisting efforts,” said agency spokesman Chris Tollefson. “For this reason, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes every step possible to work with our independent peer review contractors to ensure that selected scientific experts have not prejudged the proposals they will review.”

    The agency said the scientists’ letter itself constitutes a form of advocacy. But the agency said it had not seen the list of AMEC’s peer reviewers and won’t know those names until the review is completed in September.

    The FWS solicitation for the peer review sought experts with backgrounds in wolf ecology who are sufficiently independent from FWS and who have not been engaged in advocacy.

    “Peer reviewers will be advised that they are not to provide advice on policy,” the FWS solicitation stated. “Rather, they should focus their review on identifying and characterizing scientific uncertainties.”

    But the scientists’ removal added fodder for the agency’s critics.

    It comes as the agency faces scrutiny on Capitol Hill over revelations that FWS supervisors retaliated against three whistle-blowers who had exposed violations of the agency’s scientific integrity policy (Greenwire, Aug. 2).

    “This is the first time I’ve encountered anything like this in my career,” said Dan Thornhill, a scientist for Defenders of Wildlife who holds a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Georgia and has been involved in peer reviews for more than 15 years.

    Thornhill said that the scientists’ letter hardly constitutes advocacy work and that taking a position on an issue does not indicate a conflict of interest.

    “It seems like reviewers are being cherry-picked,” he said. “It’s not like a jury. You really want things to be vetted by the best and brightest scientists.”

    Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said Fish and Wildlife’s decision could leave the panel with only experts who have never spoken publicly about wolves, either because they support the delisting or fear compromising their ability to win federal contracts.

    By hand-picking the peer reviewers — or at least implying which scientists should not be on the panel — FWS is compromising the review’s independence, he said.

    “For an issue of this magnitude, this is a sleazy way to run a peer review,” he said, adding that it could lead to additional litigation.

    Ruch added that the FWS decision appears to flout the White House Office of Management and Budget’s guidance that says peer review panels should include experts with a range of viewpoints who are independent from the agency.

    “Inviting reviewers with competing views on the science may lead to a sharper, more focused peer review,” the OMB guidance states.

    The FWS delisting decision was hailed by Western states, livestock groups and hunters who agreed with the agency that wolves are no longer in danger of extinction after being nearly eradicated from the lower 48 states (Greenwire, June 7).

    More than 6,000 wolves roam the western Great Lakes states and Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, up from nearly zero when they were listed in the 1970s.

    But some environmental groups argue that wolves have yet to return to most of their historical range and that protections should remain so the animals can recolonize suitable habitat in the southern Rockies, the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast.

    Fish and Wildlife has ordered the peer reviews to be completed by Sept. 11, the same date by which public comments are due.

    • Thanks for posting this, Steve. Having the FWS make determinations as to who may or may not participate in the review process pretty much eliminates any claims of “independence” in the review process. And AMEC still remains a fairly mysterious choice to conduct such a review — they’re an international engineering firm with a focus on energy production and, so far as I know, very little experience in conducting independent scientific assessments ( Their following FWS instructions in this instance certainly casts doubt on their own capabilities and independence on this project. One more instance of the FWS “independently” reviewing it’s own work by using AMEC as a contractor, with controversy still surrounding a similar relationship between the two.

      Other questions (I hope there are some answers out there): How much is this “independent” review costing US taxpayers?

      What are the review criteria? How are they being developed?

      Why was AMEC selected to conduct the review?


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