Independent Peer Review Panel Rejects Science Behind Secretary Jewell’s Proposal to Delist Wolves

The Endangered Species Coalition and many other organizations in the conservation community have long contended that Secretary Jewell’s proposal to kick wolves off the Endangered Species List is unscientific and deeply flawed. It is a plan based on political science in place of sound conservation science—as is called for by the Endangered Species Act.

Now, a peer review committee commissioned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has concurred in determining that science does not support the plan. Secretary Jewell must immediately withdraw this proposal.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s plan calls for the removal of Endangered Species Act protections from practically all wolves across the lower 48 states. There would be an exception made for the exceedingly endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. Wolves in California, Colorado, the Northeast, and states elsewhere that have seen wolves desperately trying to expand, would lose all Endangered Species Act protections.

In making FWS conducted a “peer review”, bringing in scientists from outside the government to review the proposal. Alarmingly, the FWS initially attempted to control the selection of scientists to serve on that review committee by excluding three scientists they feared would oppose their plan.

Following discovery of that attempt at tipping the scales in their favor, the FWS assembled a second peer review committee. This panel concluded that the plan is not supported by the science used to support it.

When confronted about the highly controversial plan to delist wolves, Secretary Jewell has contended that she has no choice in the matter. Her hands are tied, she says, by science. Here she is at an event discussing the future of conservation and the outdoors replying to a question from a young person about wolves:

She says, “(The removal of Endangered Species Act protections) is not something I actually have a choice (sic). It’s about science and you do what the science says.”

We now know what the science says. Even before the peer review panel rejected her plan, 16 scientists with expertise in this field signed a letter opposing it. More than 200 business leaders  spoke out against it. Nearly 90 members of the U.S. House sent a letter to Secretary Jewell asking her to withdraw it.

All told, more than one million people  have spoken out against this flawed proposal in person and online.  No endangered species listing decision in history has generated this much opposition.

The fact of the matter is that Americans value—and have a made significant investment in—the restoration of wolves. We also know that there is suitable habitat across the country, awaiting the return of this top carnivore.

Now presented with what science says, Secretary Jewell must hold true to her pledge. She needs to “do what the science says” and cancel this premature delisting, and finish the job of wolf recovery.

Representative Peter DeFazio issued the following statement:

“I’ve long said that ESA decisions should be based on science, not politics, and the experts who have reviewed the so-called science behind the proposed rule have spoken. The peer review released today leaves no option but for Fish and Wildlife Service to rescind the proposed rule and continue federal protections that are essential to the long-term survival and recovery of gray wolves. Continued protection under the Endangered Species Act is the only way that gray wolves will ever return to a significant portion of their range, and reclaim their place as a keystone species of American landscapes. Next week, I will host a conference call to discuss the peer review in more detail.”

Reactions from ESC member groups below:

The Center for Biological Diversity: Top Wolf Scientists Unanimous: Science Doesn’t Support Plan to Strip Protections

NRDC: Independent Scientific Panel Rebukes Science in Federal Government’s Wolf Delisting Rule

Defenders of Wildlife: Independent Peer Reviewers Reject Fish and Wildlife Service’s Gray Wolf Delisting Proposal

Cascadia Wildlands: Peer Review Questions Obama Proposal to Strip Protections for Wolves

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14 comments on “Independent Peer Review Panel Rejects Science Behind Secretary Jewell’s Proposal to Delist Wolves

  1. A wildlife commissioner in Washington State would say “We have to get the politics and emotion out of this [cougar control] and let the biologists do their jobs.”

    After a presentation by biologists that indicated heavy hunting of cougars was causing problems and the cougar hunting seasons needed redesign, he stated “Well, science is fine, but we have to use common sense.”

    Let’s just consider the peer-panel report another obstacle in the way of wolf-haters, and let’s not put too much faith in the words of someone who ignored the available science to start the process, or who failed to stop the process. This dogfight isn’t over, and we haven’t won it yet. C’mon Sally, prove me wrong. Stop the delisting.

  2. We all know it about who has the most money, ranchers, hunters and wolf haters!!!! not about science at all!

  3. Hi – I visited the USA from the UK just to see your fabulous wolves. I will come again to see them. Please listen to science and consider the biodiversity of your wonderful country side and the true balance of nature. Wolves are amazing animals, don’t lose them.

    1. Thank you Ann for visiting the US!! And thank you for your support of our beautiful wildlife creatures. We love our wolves and are trying very hard to save them!

  4. I sincerely do hope and pray that the Wolves will be protected with this report. It would be so discouraging if they are not reinstated with the protections they will need to thrive.

  5. I can not understand your need for delisting the wolves from protection. We, as “higher intelligent” species, seem to not be satisfied unless we are constantly hunting another creature until it is extinct or at the point of extinction. When is it we finally learn that just because we “can” , doesn’t mean we should. For a change , please think on your own without special interests lining the pockets, please … for the animals lives… think.
    Thank you. Renee

  6. Ms. Jewell and her Political Supporters,

    There is so much corruption in our country; most self serving politicians being the major problem. Certainly, you can channel your energy in mending our political ills, instead of destroying our beautiful, innocent wildlife creatures. Good grief!!

    Mr. DeFazio…Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!!

  7. My Kindergarten through 5th grade students studied the issue in our S.T.E.A.M. ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) based program.My Art Kindergarten Art students questioned the science behind the removal of the Gray Wolf from the list of Endangered Species.
    Not a one could find anything to support this proposal. The scientific research by which I mean ‘peer reviewed” scientific research and not “peer forbidden to review research has long shown that removing the keystone predator from an ecosystem results in the death of the ecosystem. Even my Kindergarten class knew the ” Starfish Rule”. How can Secretary Jewell be unfamiliar with this example or the history of the drying up of Yellowstone in the aftermath of the extermination of its wolves? Something isn’t right!

  8. I have not found one true scientific piece of evidence that supports the delisting of wolves from the Endangered Species Act. When stable wolf pacts are split through slaughter of its members, inexperienced wolves will be forced to find food which could lead to predation of livestock. An experienced pack’s leaders will teach the young to hunt proper prey. Positive effects of the return of wolves include improvement of health of elk and deer populations, improvement to riverine and other areas where animals have overgrazed, increase in other species like wolverine, ravens, etc as wolves “set the table” for them when they take down big prey. Apart from scientific reasons, I implore you to use your heart. These are individuals whose family members are important to them. They are a species against which our federal government in the early 1900s committed a horrendous injustice through listening to the greedy of our nation. I am a strong supporter of President Obama, but his environmental record has been mediocre. One of the greatest reasons I vote Democratic is because that party has been much stronger on environmental issues. The Bush administration wreaked havoc on environment and wildlife. What a sad thing if the present administration, rather than try to amend that situation, would make it worse and be responsible for undoing decades of hard work to reduce this iconic species back to the land it once called home.

  9. Ms. Jewell, your refusal to listen to science and finish the job that so many people have worked for is shameful. It is obvious that You and your peers are succumbing to the pressure from special interests groups. It seems to me that the One thing I thought the Obama administration was doing well was to protect the environment and wildlife. Now I am 100 percent sure of the hypocrisy and lies of this administration. You are wasting our money!

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