Blog

Half a Million People Urge U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Not to Abandon Red Wolves

With Only 45 Remaining, Species Is One of World’s Most Endangered Mammals

WASHINGTON—A petition including nearly half a million signatures was delivered to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week urging the agency to fulfill its legal duty under the Endangered Species Act to recover the critically endangered red wolf. To spur the agency to resume efforts to save a species now reduced to an estimated wild population of only 45, nearly 500,000 names were submitted in a petition drive organized the Animal Welfare Institute, Care2, the Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition and the Wildlands Network, and a couple local North Carolina high school students. The petition comes a little over a year after the Service officially announced it was suspending red wolf releases into the wild.  

It’s shameful how the Service has bowed to political pressure and deliberately undermined the success of its program to recover red wolves,” said Jamie Pang, endangered species campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency’s inaction is condemning this species to extinction.” 

Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild until a successful reintroduction program was established in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in 1987. By 2006, this program had enabled the population to expand to more than 130; since then the unique animals have received ample support from conservationists, the public and even private landowners who live within the red wolf recovery area.

“Until recently, the Service operated a successful red wolf recovery program with widespread public support for saving the wolves,” said Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. “However, without a valid reason, the agency has now turned its back on the species and, instead, is sitting  idly by as red wolf numbers plummet.”

“It’s simply jaw-dropping that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife is consciously deciding whether to issue a death sentence — knowingly allowing a wolf found only in the United States to go extinct. The red wolf has been one of our greatest wildlife success stories and could be again,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “It is a day I never thought I’d see.”

Following a lawsuit by nonprofit groups to limit coyote hunting–once a threat to the red wolf’s survival–the Service faced increased political pressure to curtail the recovery program. In 2014, the Service eliminated the program’s recovery coordinator position and in June 2015 it stopped the introduction of new red wolves into the wild. The agency also ended its coyote-sterilization program, which was helping to prevent hybrid animals from harming the red wolf’s gene pool, curtailed law-enforcement investigations of wolf deaths to help bring poachers to justice, and allowed for both the lethal and nonlethal removal of wolves from private lands, arguably causing the population to sink.

“The red wolf is now one of the world’s most endangered mammal species. There are 37 times as many giant pandas, 100 times as many snow leopards, and 400 times as many African lions in the wild as there are red wolves left in eastern North Carolina,” said Ron Sutherland, a conservation scientist at Wildlands Network. “We hope Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will listen to the public and prevent the red wolf from going extinct in the wild again.”

“Hundreds of thousands of members of the Care2 community are speaking up for red wolves, demanding the howls of these amazing animals continue to sound through North Carolina. We hope our federal wildlife leaders hear this call and reverse course immediately,” said Aaron Viles, Senior Grassroots Organizer, with Care2.

 

 

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 to reduce animal suffering caused by people.  AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild.

 

Care2is a community of 36 million standing together for good. People are making world-changing impact with Care2, starting petitions and supporting each other’s campaigns to help individuals, animals and the environment. A pioneer of online advocacy since 1998, Care2 is a B Corporation, or social enterprise, using the power of business as a force for good.

 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

 

The Endangered Species Coalition is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery. The Endangered Species Coalition works to safeguard and strengthen the Endangered Species Act, a law that enables every citizen to act on behalf of threatened and endangered wildlife—animals, fish, plants, and insects—and the wild places they call home.

 

Wildlands Network is a nonprofit organization that works to reconnect and rewild nature in North America. With offices in the United States and Mexico, Wildlands Network advocates for continental-scale wildlife corridors and for the recovery of top carnivores such as wolves and cougar.

 

If lead ammunition is bad for people and the environment, why do we still use it?

This post originally appeared at Ensia.com.

By Andy McGlashen @AMcGlashen

 

Andrea Goodnight knows firsthand what lead poisoning looks like. A veterinarian at the Oakland Zoo, Goodnight treats endangered California condors when testing shows dangerous levels of the toxic metal in their blood.

If blood lead levels get too high, condors, eagles and other raptors “regurgitate everything and can’t hold anything down, so basically they’re starving to death,” Goodnight says. “A very clinically ill bird is very distressing. They’re weak, they fall over, they just can’t feed themselves at all and eventually they die. To me, it’s an absolutely horrible way to die.”

Treatment is usually enough to save the birds, but the experience is invasive and stressful for condors, she says. “And then they get poisoned again, and they go through it all again.”

Ammunition is the main source of lead that poisons condors. Lead’s availability, density and malleability have made it a cost-effective bullet material for centuries. But lead bullets can lose half of their mass on impact, leaving hundreds of tiny fragments both in the meat hunters take home and the entrails they leave behind, which are a food source for many wild creatures. Before California outlawed lead ammunition in its eight-county condor range in 2008, hunters there left behind more than 30,000 lead-tainted carcasses or “gut piles” each year, according to a 2003 study. A 2009 review of the scientific literature found more than 130 species of animals known to have been exposed to or killed by lead from ingesting it or eating lead-tainted meat.

Pointing to a growing body of research that links it to wildlife deaths and suggests it’s a threat to people who eat wild game, some scientists say it’s time to phase out lead ammunition in favor of non-toxic alternatives. But gun rights advocates have largely beaten back attempts to regulate lead by dismissing the science and stoking suspicions that what lead ammunition opponents have in their crosshairs is not lead, but hunting altogether.

Patchwork Regulation

Many hunters are voluntarily switching to lead-free ammunition, and others would do the same if they fully understood the risk to wildlife and to their own families, says Leland Brown, a non-lead hunting educator with the Oregon Zoo. But he says the hunting community as a whole often feels unfairly attacked by environmental groups and underappreciated for its conservation ethic.

“I really strongly think that, given the right information, they will move toward using non-lead ammunition,” he says. “It’s just not going to happen overnight.”

A U.S.-wide ban on hunting waterfowl with lead was instituted in 1991 after scientists estimated that 2 million waterfowl a year were dying from eating lead shot while scooping up food from the bottoms of lakes and streams or ingesting pebbles to grind food in their gizzards. In 2013 California approved a statewide ban on lead ammunition that began with certain types of hunting in 2015 and will apply to all hunting beginning July 1, 2019. Minnesota officials are considering a ban on small-game hunting with lead in some parts of the state, and 34 states in addition to California have regulations that go beyond the federal waterfowl ban. But in most states and for most types of hunting, lead remains the go-to material.

California Condor Credit USFWS

California Condor
Credit USFWS

The U.S. is not atypical in having a patchwork of lead regulations. Canada requires hunters to use non-lead shotgun pellets in wetlands and national wildlife areas and for hunting most migratory birds. Lead shot is outlawed in Denmark, the Netherlands and the Flemish region of Belgium. Several other European Union members have instituted or are considering bans on hunting waterfowl with lead, but the EU has no legislation restricting its use. Norway in 2005 adopted a nationwide ban on hunting with lead but its parliament in 2015 repealed the ban outside of wetlands, saying there was insufficient evidence to support it.

Lead poisoning causes brain damage and, in humans, is thought to be linked with lower IQ, poor school performance and violent behavior. Even the ancient Romans knew lead could cause cognitive damage and death.

“Indeed, we know more about the toxicity of lead than we do about almost any other contaminant,” says Myra Finkelstein, an environmental toxicologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz who studies lead’s effects on wildlife.

Finkelstein was among 30 scientists who signed a 2013 consensus statement citing “the overwhelming scientific evidence of the toxic effects of lead on human and wildlife health” and calling for “reducing and eventually eliminating the introduction of lead into the environment from lead-based ammunition.”

Science vs. Legislation

The emblematic animal victim of lead poisoning, the California condor, was brought back from the brink of extinction through a captive breeding program begun in the 1980s. There are now over 400 condors in California, Arizona and Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, with more than half of them wild and the rest in captivity. A 2012 study by Finkelstein and colleagues noted that, each year, one in five free-flying birds has blood lead levels high enough to require treatment; lead poisoning is responsible for more than half of condor deaths.

Finkelstein’s research showed that the regional lead ban in the condor range was ineffective in protecting the wide-ranging birds. The study found that “the prevalence of lead poisoning in California condors is of epidemic proportion” and used isotope “fingerprinting” to demonstrate that lead ammunition is the main source. The scientists concluded that only eliminating or substantially reducing lead poisoning rates could bring about a real recovery of condors.

“It’s a crazy situation where we can’t use our toxic substance law for exactly what it’s designed for.” –Jeff Miller

Environmentalists say the science is clear and have twice petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate lead ammunition nationwide under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA rejected the petitions, saying its hands are tied because of an exemption in TSCA for ammunition. When the groups sued EPA, federal district and appeals courts sided with the agency.

“It’s a crazy situation where we can’t use our toxic substance law for exactly what it’s designed for,” says Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups calling for federal regulation of lead ammo.

While Miller says the center will continue pursuing other avenues to bring about federal regulation, gun rights advocates appear to be winning the legislative battle over what they call “traditional” ammunition. The National Rifle Association has pushed bills that would block EPA from regulating lead ammunition under TSCA, and the group won a significant victory last year when President Barack Obama signed a defense bill that does just that. “I have to finally, actually acknowledge that, at least on that round, the NRA won,” says William Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.

And Snape said he’s even more concerned about proposed language in a federal spending bill that would permanently block the agency from regulating lead ammunition and fishing tackle not only under TSCA, but any other law. “We’re very worried that some of this language could find its way into a deal,” he says.

Scare Tactic

The NRA did not respond to requests for comment on this story. Its lobbying arm has contended that “anti-lead ammunition advocates want to ban all lead ammunition both at ranges and in the field, and they want to ban all hunting,” but the Humane Society of the United States policy statement the NRA points to only targets certain types of hunting, including bear baiting, contest killing, and trophy hunting of rare and endangered animals.

“The NRA is the real obstruction,” says Miller, noting that his organization is not against hunting in general. “It’s just a fear-based argument that, unfortunately, I think they think is good for their organization.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, referred Ensia to an online statement that says the group “opposes efforts to ban or restrict the use of traditional ammunition containing lead components for use in hunting or shooting unless there is sound science conclusively establishing that the use of traditional ammunition is causing an adverse impact on a wildlife population, the environment or on the human health of those consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition, and that other reasonable measures, short of restricting or banning the product, cannot be undertaken to adequately address the concern.” The statement dismisses the scientific literature on lead’s dangers and calls attempts by wildlife advocates and “anti-hunting groups” to ban or restrict lead ammunition “scientifically unfounded and nothing more than a scare tactic to advance their political agenda.”

NSSF also claims that a 2008 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of hunters and others in North Dakota who regularly eat wild game confirms there is no health risk from eating animals killed with lead, noting that none of the 736 participants had a blood lead level higher than the threshold at which the CDC recommends a health intervention.

The CDC has since cut in half the blood lead level at which it recommends a public health intervention to counteract lead poisoning, putting several study participants above today’s threshold. The agency warns there is no safe blood lead level in children.

But the group’s conclusion ignores the study’s broader finding that those who ate a lot of wild game tended to have higher blood lead levels than those who ate little or none, and the levels were higher the more recently the person had eaten wild game. NSSF reached and promoted a starkly different interpretation of the study than the North Dakota Department of Health, which reacted by issuing recommendations that pregnant women and children under six years old avoid eating venison shot with lead bullets.

Furthermore, the CDC has since cut in half the blood lead level at which it recommends a public health intervention to counteract lead poisoning, putting several study participants above today’s threshold. The agency warns there is no safe blood lead level in children.

The North Dakota study was prompted by independent research by a physician and hunter who found lead fragments in venison donated to food pantries. NSSF and other critics noted that the physician, William Cornatzer, sat on the board of directors of the Peregrine Fund, a leading group in efforts to protect condors from lead and other threats. But the findings — coming on the heels of a study that found lead in a quarter of venison samples from Minnesota food banks — convinced North Dakota officials to order the charities to throw out venison and only accept donations from bow hunters.

Price Point

Gun advocates are concerned that banning lead ammunition will leave many hunters unable to afford nontoxic alternatives, which are generally more expensive. But while overall hunting numbers have declined since California’s lead ban in the condor range began, the decrease reflects larger trends in hunting participation and appears unrelated to lead regulations, says Clark Blanchard, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Basically, the statewide hunter numbers have been declining slightly for the past decade,” Blanchard says. “However, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the non-lead ammo regulations.”

While some lead-free ammunition costs twice as much as mass-market lead brands, non-lead bullets are comparable in price to premium lead ammunition, and can even be cheaper, according to the not-for-profit Institute for Wildlife Studies, which runs a website with information for hunters interested in switching to lead-free ammunition. The group says ammunition is typically among the smallest costs associated with hunting.

A 2013 study found little difference in price when comparing premium lead ammunition and nontoxic alternatives, and concluded that hunters who use lead-free options do not sacrifice performance. Even the NRA has praised the performance of copper bullets. And prices for non-lead bullets continue to fall. Federal Ammunition, for example, recently released a copper bullet under its budget Power Shok line, which Cabela’s sells in the popular .30-06 caliber for US$27.99 for a box of 20 rounds. Some Federal premium lead cartridges in the same caliber retail at US$24.99, while other premium lead bullets go for US$40.99 a box. Similarly, research has shown that — despite many hunters’ feelings to the contrary — nontoxic steel shotgun pellets are just as effective as lead shot at killing mourning doves, the nation’s most popular game bird. Prices vary, but Cabela’s sells 12-gauge Kent #6 steel shot for US$13.99 per box, while the same company’s premier lead shotgun shells in the same gauge and shot size range from US$12.99 to US$14.99.

Brown, from the Oregon Zoo, says non-lead bullets work better than lead bullets, because they cut deep into the animal’s body and bring it down quickly. He made the switch after learning how much lead bullets fragment on impact.

“I had fantastic success,” he says. “The few times since then when I’ve used lead ammunition, I’ve actually been less pleased. It didn’t do what I had gotten used to non-lead ammo doing, which was kill the animal quickly within 30 yards. I really don’t see any reason to use lead anymore.” View Ensia homepage

Editor’s note: Andy McGlashen is communications director for the Michigan Environmental Council, which has not done any work on the issue of lead in ammunition, though addressing other lead hazards is a priority of its work.

Attacks on Endangered Species Act Hiding Behind Bad Attitudes and Bad Science

Wolves in the Western Great Lakes remain under Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection following a federal court decision in December 2014. Judge Howell criticized the states for inadequate regulatory mechanisms. The court ruled the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service failed to address the impact of combined mortality such as disease and human killing.

Prior to this ruling, more than 1,500 wolves have been killed through recreational hunting and trapping resulting in a substantial reduction in wolf populations. This added human-caused mortality constitutes a threat to the species. 

wolfphtoDespite the known threats to wolves, the State, along with proponents of killing wolves are again calling for delisting wolves. Their reasons are not supported by the best scientific evidence. There is no call to improve federal agency science that caused wolves to be relisted by the above-mentioned lawsuit. There is no call to ensure stakeholders, such as non-consumptive users, be represented in DNR and federal wildlife agencies. The argument that wolves take funding from other species, even given the possibility that keystone species protect a wide variety of other animals, seems to be a held belief amongst scientists within these agencies, some university scientists funded by agencies, and even those in wolf education. Where is the call to increase funding for all species at risk? Nothing’s changed. They present no new evidence and they make the same tired and unsupported claims. Those trumpeting delisting would be wise to fix the problems the judge identified. If not litigation will resume and that’s what the U.S. Constitution had in mind when it established separation of powers.

In a summit scheduled for September of 2016, State of Wisconsin officials and GOP politicians, known for their endorsement of trophy hunting and opening public lands to free-running hounds, will try to advance their argument for delisting wolves. It is also worth noting the State of Wisconsin does, in fact, manage wolves under endangered status, and USDA’s Wildlife Services in conjunction with the DNR is implementing a wide array of non-lethal farming practices that work. We commend them for this success.

However, some claim culling wolves is necessary to protect livestock and pets. Evidence suggests that harvesting wolves as a means to manage depredations is unscientifically sound (Vucetich et al). An additional study forthcoming from University of Wisconsin  indicates culling and hunting have lousy track records for preventing livestock losses and have increased them in at least three regions.


Some claim culling wolves will prevent poaching. Last month, Guillaume Chapron, PhD and Adrian Treves, PhD released a new study suggesting the opposite. They found that the wolf population growth slowed when the state had authority to cull wolves, independent of how many wolves were culled. The scientists inferred that poaching increased when the state had power to kill wolves. This evidence is consistent with the findings on inclination to poach wolves.

The States have no scientific justification for management flexibility. Instead they seem to want that flexibility to kill more wolves for trophies, improve attitudes towards the agency and to appease donors & special interest groups. Wolves would once again be killed statewide using unscientific and unethical practices.  These include hunting into breeding season, trapping in areas of prime habitat and the use of hounds throughout Wisconsin. The WI DNR does not refute information about dogs being killed but with their state managed wolf hunt, dogs will be used, which is dog fighting.

Delisting decisions should be based solely on the best scientific evidence and without commercial private interests or politicians using fear and false data to get votes. Some Federal legislators are calling for wolf delisting by attacking the ESA, which is the most popular environmental law in the nation.  We call on you to ask your Representatives, on all levels, to uphold democracy, transparency and science-based policy because current proposals and policies lack all.

Celebrate Endangered Species Day

Today is the 11th annual Endangered Species Day! The U.S. Senate helped to start this day of celebration of conservation and service for species by passing a resolution in 2006 marking the day. In the years that have followed, local governments have passed similar resolutions and Endangered Species Day has become an opportunity for both committed activists to engage in actions that protect our vanishing wildlife and for others to learn more about the importance of protecting imperiled species and ways that they can help to achieve this. 

esdayeventmap

Endangered Species Day events are being held around the country today and through the weekend. You can find an event near you through our Endangered Species Day event directory. If there are no events near you, you can still take action for Endangered Species Day.

Actions like planting milkweed, building a bat house, or giving up meat for a day are ways that you can make a difference for imperiled wildlife on Endangered Species Day. You can take action online to protect grizzly bears, monarch butterflies, red wolves, and other species with our friends at TakePart.com or share these 10 ways to protect endangered species

You can find more ways to be a part of the day at endangeredspeciesday.org. Whatever you do, please leave a pin on our map to tell us that you were a part of Endangered Species Day! If you tweet, please use the hashtag #EndangeredSpeciesDay and mention us @endangered to tell us how you are taking part, and we will retweet as possible. 

Thank you for being a part of our community and have a great Endangered Species Day!

Winners Announced in 2016 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest!

Winning entries were announced in the 2016 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest. The entires were chosen from more than one thousand submissions from very talented young artists around the country. The art submissions represent either land or ocean dwelling species that lives in or migrates through the United States and its waters, or a plant that is found in the United States, and has been placed on the threatened or endangered species list.

The Grand Prize winning entry is from Miles Yun who will be coming to Washington, D.C. soon to accept his award! 

The Grade Category Winners are:

K-2 Grade Category Winner: Rachel Yang

3-5 Grade Category Winner: Sophia Xie

6-8 Grade Category Winner: Katrina Sharonin

9-12 Grade Category Winner: Elizabeth Kiernicki

You can view all of the semi-finalist entries here. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Take action for Endangered Species Day

manateeesdayThe 11th annual Endangered Species Day is coming up in weeks. On Friday, May 20th, events will be held around the country to celebrate successes in protecting imperiled species and to engage in service to keep up the fight.

You can find events near you at www.endangeredspeciesday.org. Events are registered frequently as May 20th approaches, so check back if you don’t see something. Or, download the toolkit and organize your own event!

If you are not attending an event, you can still make a difference. Pledge to make a change on Endangered Species Day to benefit vanishing wildlife. Here are a few ways you can take action:

Give up meat for 24 hours. The global demand for meat is creating a world of problems. Water pollution, habitat loss, climate change and wildlife conflicts are all problems that can begin to be addressed by taking meat off your plate. 

Walk, bike, or take public transit to school or work: Small steps can make a difference! Pledge to leave the car at home and find alternative ways to get to work or school. Lowering your carbon footprint is a step towards addressing climate change and using less fossil fuels reduces the threats posed to endangered and threatened species in their production and transport.

Make conscious consumption a priority: Pay attention to what you buy for 24 hours. Is it sustainable? Keep a log of your impact for the day! Does the snack food you bought contain palm oil? Were pesticides used in growing the fruits and produce on your plate? Being aware is the first step in making change.

Sign up here to pledge to take Endangered Species Day action and we will remind you as we get closer to the date and give you helpful information to make sure you succeed.

However you support, we hope you can be a part of Endangered Species Day!

 

Committee Votes to Object to Bobcat Hunting in New Hampshire

With thanks to months of activism, earlier this month the New Hampshire Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules voted to object to the reopening proposal
 on a trapping and hunting season on bobcats! The committee voted that the bobcat proposal is in violation of federal law under the Endangered Species Act because Canada Lynx and bobcats share the same range in NH. Opening a season on bobcats could than in turn harm the endangered Canada Lynx. The committee also took value in court decisions in other states have found state wildlife agencies liable for bobcat trapping because of the impacts on the Canada Lynx and therefore, the proposal was not a financially responsible decision. During the NH Fish and Game Commission meeting where the commissioners voted on passing this proposal, some commissioners expressed concern that this proposal will be costing the department money they did not have. However, the commission went ahead and passed the proposal by a close one vote, 5-4. 

What does this mean? The NH Department of Fish & Game now has 45 days, from April 1st, to address the two objections to the proposal or they can choose to withdraw the proposal completely. Simultaneously, the House Fish & Game & Marine Resources Committee (a legislative committee not associated with the Fish & Game Department or Commission) will review the merits of the bobcat season. 

The Endangered Species Coalition added in the wonderful victory through email action alerts and motivating activists to attend and testify at public hearings. I would like to gibobcatve a big shout out and thank to NH chapter of HSUS and Voices for Wildlife for their extremely hard work advocating for this victory.  

However, we are not out of the woods yet. We will be monitoring both the agency’s response to the objections as well as the legislative committee’s review of the proposal and will alert you via our Northeast Wolf and Carnivore Activist Facebook Group as we hear more.  In the meantime, enjoy this significant victory for the bobcats and thank you for your continued advocacy on this issue! 

If you haven’t please join the Northeast Wolf and Carnivore Activist Facebook Group to get live updates and help make a difference for our wildlife. 

UPDATE 4-13-16: The N.H. Fish & Game Department has withdrawn the proposed bobcat hunting and trapping season: http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/bobcat-season-proposal.html

All wrong in Oregon  

 

Last week, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) posted this brief update to a press release it had issued earlier that week:

UPDATE March 31, 2016: The four wolves of the Imnaha pack associated with recent depredations were shot and killed today by ODFW staff on private land in Wallowa County.

That brief notice marked the latest in what has been an excruciatingly frustrating several months in Oregon.

Imnaha pack pups. Photo credit ODFW

Imnaha pack pups. Photo credit ODFW

The pack that was singled out for what the state terms ‘lethal control’ was the Imnaha pack. It had become the target of state killing due to recent depredations of livestock. ODFW swiftly carried out the order, killing four members of the Imnaha pack: OR4, the father of OR7 (Journey), his likely pregnant mate, and two yearling pups.

Putting aside whether the state should have acted so quickly to kill these wolves, this action is part of what is becoming a familiar and disturbing pattern in Oregon’s dealings with gray wolves. Over the last several months, legislators and state officials, including Governor Kate Brown, have acted with increasing hostility towards the state’s burgeoning wolf population.

In November, the ODFW Commission voted to remove gray wolves from the state endangered species list with just over 100 wolves occupying the entire state. This action alone was a red flag that the Brown administration was putting politics over science and sound ecology. Oregon is a state rich in landscapes suitable for gray wolves. Their presence would not only enrich the ecosystem, but if the Northern Rockies are a guide, it would draw tourist dollars. It is estimated that wolf-related tourism including photography exhibitions and other non-consumptive activities bring in more than 30 million dollars to areas around Yellowstone. But in order to draw wolf-enthusiasts, Oregon needs wolves and while 110 is a nice start, it’s just that—a start.

The ODFW is not alone in creating more obstacles for wolf recovery. Not comfortable to sit on the sideline while the Commission stripped gray wolves of state endangered species protections, the legislature pushed through a bill that both reaffirms this delisting and effectively prevents judicial review. Conservation organizations, activists, scientists, and even members of the U.S. Congress spoke out against the legislation. The governor quickly signed it into law.

Oregon is a beautiful state that has earned its place as a leader on environmental issues. Decisions like those being made by ODFW and the Brown administration put that reputation at risk and threaten Oregon’s wolf recovery.

 

Eight Members of Congress to Be Honored for Defending Wildlife, Endangered Species Act

 

 
March 16, 2016

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) March 16, 2016 — Eight members of Congress will be recognized today by leading national conservation groups for their critical role in protecting the Endangered Species Act.The “Champions of the Endangered Species Act” reception will feature former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and honor Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and House members Don Beyer (D-VA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Niki Tsongas (D-MA).

The honorees will be recognized by the Animal Welfare Institute, Audubon, Born Free USA, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, the Endangered Species Coalition, Environmental Defense Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, the Native Plant Conservation Campaign, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, WildEarth Guardians, and Wildlands Network.

The groups jointly issued the following statement:

“We celebrate and honor these conservation leaders whose vision and leadership has created a legacy of immeasurable benefit to our environment, to our nation’s most imperiled wildlife, and to our communities. Their tireless support for wildlife is vital as powerful special interests continue efforts to weaken or eliminate the Endangered Species Act and other bedrock conservation laws grounded in science.”

The Endangered Species Act is more at risk today than ever before, as several members of Congress continue to push legislative agendas designed to undermine the Act, threatening public lands and iconic wildlife. Collectively, the legislative attacks on the Endangered Species Act introduced by this Congress represent the most sweeping attacks since the landmark conservation law was passed 43 years ago.

The repeated attacks come despite strong public support for the Endangered Species Act. A July 2015 poll found that 90 percent of U.S. voters support the Endangered Species Act, affirming similar findings from previous polls over the last decade.

# # #

UPDATE: View photos from the event here and if you are on Twitter, please congratulate these Champions of the Endangered Species Act through this page!

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Announcement — Endangered Species Coalition Will Work to Ensure Proposal Contains Strong Conservation Measures for Grizzly Bears

Endangered Species Coalition statement in response to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announcement that it is preparing to remove Endangered Species Act protections from grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region:

“The Endangered Species Act is a critical safety net that has prevented 99 percent of protected plant and animal species from going extinct, and the restoration of the Yellowstone grizzly bear is another example of how the Endangered Species Act works to protect and recover species from the brink of extinction.”

“Nevertheless, the Endangered Species Coalition is concerned about:

  • The lack connectivity to date between grizzly bear populations;
  • The impact of climate change on bears, bear foods, and bear habitat;
  • Dwindling funding for grizzly bear conservation;
  • Ongoing human-bear conflict in certain areas and the associated grizzly bear mortality.”

“The Endangered Species Coalition will carefully scrutinize the draft delisting rule and conservation strategy to ensure it supports a healthy, stable population of grizzly bears into the foreseeable future, connectivity between bear populations, as well as strong protections in core grizzly bear habitat. Any delisting rule should also include robust monitoring of population trends, mortality and habitat conditions, as well as continued funding for vital conflict reduction work that maintains and improves social tolerance for grizzly bears. Finally, we expect strong commitments from states to manage bears carefully and conservatively, to allow grizzly bears to expand to suitable bear habitat.”

“The restoration of the Yellowstone grizzly bear to is an amazing Endangered Species Act success story. Thanks to decades of dedicated conservation efforts by federal, state and tribal wildlife officials, wildlife conservation groups, sportsmen and landowners, more than 700 grizzly bears roam the greater Yellowstone region, where there once were as fewer than 150. We need to ensure that grizzly bear conservation endures for future generations.”

–Derek Goldman, Northern Rockies Representative

###