The decision announced this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that two petitions to protect the gray wolf across the western United States contain sufficient scientific information to trigger a final determination by the agency are a step in the right direction and the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC) is cautiously optimistic.
The ESC joined one of the two listing petitions seeking protections, submitted by 70 conservation and wildlife groups, across the West. The ESC separately petitioned USFWS along with the Idaho Conservation League for a status review similar to that which the FWS will undertake.
New anti-wolf state laws and regulations in the Northern Rocky Mountain states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming place wolves at risk of serious decline, and wolves have yet to recover elsewhere in states throughout the West.
While the decision by FWS to undertake review does provide hope for protections at a later date, the ESC believes that wolves in Montana and Idaho deserve immediate protection, as could have been granted via emergency order from Secretary of the Department of Interior Deb Haaland. The Endangered Species Act specifically grants this authority to that office.
We believe that the plans by the states of Montana and Idaho to reduce their wolf populations by 80 and 90 percent respectively certainly represent an emergency warranting relisting. As many as 1,800 gray wolves could be killed in the allowed 12 months of the status review. We expect the USFWS to closely monitor wolf populations over these next few months and to implement an emergency relisting before populations plummet to unsustainable levels.
We will continue to demand Secretary Haaland act to prevent Northern Rockies wolves from declining to unsustainable population levels as driven by the reckless policies of Montana and Idaho. We also urge the Secretary to respond to Tribal letters requests for consultation regarding relisting of wolves.
Regarding the action FWS did take, we believe that a thorough review of the best available science and current inadequate regulatory mechanisms will show definitively that the gray wolf must be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The restoration of the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies has been an endangered species success story and a remarkable American conservation achievement. It is unfortunate and sad that politicians and special interests want to drive this iconic species back to the brink of extinction. We urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move quickly in its review, and to grant Endangered Species Act protections to gray wolves before populations fall to levels at which recovery is difficult.