Proposed Nationwide Delisting of Wolves in Lower 48 is Delayed Indefinitely
Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released a five year review for the wolf that recommended stripping Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from gray wolves across the lower 48 states excluding the range of the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico. At the start of 2013, the agency indicated that it planned to move forward with this action as soon as March. The proposal to remove ESA protections for gray wolves nationwide had hackles raised among Wildlife advocacy organizations, scientific communities, and some members of Congress. Wolves have only just begun to recover in large portions of the Pacific Northwest, California, southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast. So people asked, how can these populations be considered recovered?
Back in February, Congressmen Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ed Markey (D-MA) urged their fellow members in Congress to sign a letter to Director Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requesting that the agency retain ESA protections for gray wolves in areas where they have only just barely begun to recover. Although this letter got an impressive number of signatories, the opposing letter by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) that stated, “Wolves are not an endangered species and do not merit federal protections,” drew more support on the Hill. With the future for wolves looking bleak, those in support of wolf recovery were elated when last Friday on May 17th, on Endangered Species Day of all days, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) urged the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to cancel a pending rule that would de-classify many U.S. wolves as endangered. He described the delisting proposal as “scientifically flawed” and due to “cause irreparable harm.”
Representative Grijalva’s letter was celebrated by scientists and wildlife advocates, wolves had a champion in our Nation’s capitol. Is it a coincidence that just three days later government attorneys announced that “a recent unexpected delay” is indefinitely holding up action on the proposed delisting? Since no further explanation was offered, we can only guess.
In the meantime, we welcome a reprieve for gray wolves in California, the Pacific Northwest, the Southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast and appreciate the champions on the Hill, the scientists in the field, and supporters from around the world who used their voice to force change. To keep the pressure on, please consider urging Interior Secretary Jewell and your representatives to use his/her influence to maintain federal protections for wolves and wolf recovery in the lower 48 states.