NY Times on Wolf Delisting

A Times’ editorial today:



Wolves Under Review

Published: August 15, 2013

In June, the Fish and Wildlife Service prematurely proposed to end federal protection for gray wolves in the lower 48 states in the belief that wolves had fully recovered from near eradication in the early 20th century. This was politics masquerading as science. The Fish and Wildlife Service would love to shed the responsibility of protecting large carnivores, like the wolf and the grizzly bear, and hunters and ranchers throughout the Rocky Mountains would love to see wolves eradicated all over again.

By law, a decision like this one — to remove an animal from the endangered species list — requires a peer review: an impartial examination of wolf numbers, population dynamics and the consequences of proposed actions. But science and politics have gotten tangled up again. The private contractor, a consulting firm called AMEC, which was hired to run the review, removed three scientists from the review panel. Each of the scientists had signed a May 21 letter to Sally Jewell, the interior secretary, criticizing the plan to turn wolf management over to the states.

In the peer-review process, there is only the illusion of independence, for the simple reason that the Fish and Wildlife Service controls the appointment of panelists. The agency would like to pretend that these panelists were removed for their lack of impartiality. In fact, they failed to measure up to the agency’s anti-wolf bias. The Fish and Wildlife Service is now busy covering its tracks. It postponed evaluation of the delisting plan because, it says, the identities of the panelists, which were supposed to be hidden from agency officials, had been discovered.

If wolves can’t get a fair hearing at the federal level, what chance do they have at the state level? The answer is, very little. Scientists have already noted a 7 percent decline in Rocky Mountain wolves since they were delisted, and hunts authorized, in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Wolves arouse passions that seem to preclude any effort to treat them the way they should be treated: as part of a natural, healthy ecosystem. That is how the Clinton administration understood wolves when it reintroduced them to the region in the mid-1990s, and it’s how they should be understood now.

5 thoughts on “NY Times on Wolf Delisting”

  1. Hello.. New York Times… “science” and politics are always tangled up. Because scientists are people. And when people interact, politics of one kind or the other is the inevitable results.

    Wow. Under a D Administration, the Times is accusing FWS of having an anti-wolf bias. I guess I can accuse the Times of having an “anti FWS invariant of administration” bias. Not sure where that gets us.

    I bet there isn’t a way to pick x out of y wolf scientists for the review that everyone would conclude is “fair,” other than a drawing from a hat.

    • I think that almost everyone can agree that wolves aren’t the problem — people are. It is our cultural biases that dictate whether wolves are systematically killed and extirpated, routinely domesticated, or tolerated and even encouraged to occupy and even repopulate certain areas (usually someone else’s backyard, NY Times). All three approaches have been very successful and demonstrate the close bonds between people and canids throughout history.

      So where are the scientists studying people in this scenario? Or those studying elk or cougar or feral dogs? Limiting such an assessment to “wolf scientists” is the principal bias to the entire set-up. There is a lot more than wolf biology or wolf ecology at stake here. When we have people in NY city discussing “how wolves should be understood” in regards to their role “in a natural, healthy ecosystem” then we know how simplistic and politicized the issue has become. Remember when it was being claimed that only “climatologists” were qualified to comment on Global Warming, and even meteorologists were being belittled for their lack of capability to discuss the “science” involved? And “consensus” and “peer reviewed” were the further qualifications for climatologists to become “credible?” So far, all of the climatologists’ predictions from 20 years ago regarding current conditions have been wrong. Really wrong. How about the predictions of leading “wolf scientists” from 20 years ago? Valerie Geist and Charles Kay seem to have been the closest in their concerns, but have been marginalized by many of their peers for voicing their opinions. Apparently, agencies prefer “consensus” (politics) over actual scientific review.

      Certainly, it would be good to have ‘wolf scientists” on both sides of the issue represented in an assessment, but where are the landscape ecologists, cultural anthropologists, ungulate biologists and others with expertise and important insights into these problems? Having a government agency conduct an “independent review” is getting pretty close to an oxymoron by definition. Of course it is biased. We can do better — and, as scientists, it should be our responsibility to do so.

      • It was not only Kay and Geist…… others were lambasted for their non-conformity to the people pimping “donate now” buttons.

  2. “balance eco-system” I find it interesting that the only “balance” people pimping wolves are interested in is the predator pit….as Yellowstone has become. The once world renowned elk herd of 19000 elk on the Northern Range has plummeted to 3921 elk. Moose have faired even worse the population of 1200 moose before wolves fell south of 100 in the winter of 2009/10…….they have used the excuse of “its not a priority” for not counting them sense (or at least publishing the numbers). Ecologist Emma Marris is on the right track with the right way of handling eco-systems. Her book “rambunctious gardens” is the example of what is needed …..stop the abuse of the endangered species act for species like the wolf and grizzly. Both animals are listed as species of “least concern” by the international environmental organization IUCN BUT, our federal government is spending 75 to 80 percent of their endangered species resources on JUST those two animals…..YES, WHY, because of the abuse of anti-hunting groups that are more interested in stopping hunting that helping truly endangered species.


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