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USFWS Reviews Plan After “Delisting” Three Scientists From Wolf Peer Review Panel

On June 7, 2013, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) officially announced its plan to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the contiguous United States.  Just 2 months later, USFWS has postponed the evaluation of the delisting plan.

It all started with a letter.  Although USFWS director Daniel M. Ashe declared victory for gray wolf recovery by stating  “Wolves are recovered and they are now in good hands,” 16 scientists  with expertise in carnivore taxonomy and conservation biology voiced their concern that the delsiting rule is terribly premature in a letter sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on May 21st.  They argued  that the delisting rule flouts “the fundamental purpose of the Endangered Species Act to conserve endangered species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”

The Endangered Species Act requires that the decision to delist a species is based on the best available science, so federal law requires that that an independent panel of scientists examine wolf numbers, population dynamics, etc… to evaluate the delisting motion.  USFWS hired a private contractor to oversee and select participants for a peer review panel but did not effectively conceal the resumes of the panelists.  Once the identities of the panelists were revealed, USFWS discovered that three of them, Dr. John Vucetich, Dr. Robert Wayne, and Dr. Roland Kays, were among the 16 who signed the fore mentioned letter and thus removed by the agency because they have an “unacceptable affiliation with an advocacy position.”

The New York Times Editorial Board writes that ” 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.”

If  USFWS carries out their nationwide delisting proposal in spite of the exposure of its possible anti-wolf bias, the Wolf Conservation Center fears we’ll be opening the door to more political assaults on wolves and other imperiled species.  Without realizing the serious ecological consequences, we already came close to totally exterminating wolves from the lower 48 states.  But the ESA gave us a second chance to right this wrong.  Let’s not let history repeat itself.  We need to take this second chance  to hear the valid concerns shared by the scientific community. For the sake of wolves, the environment, and the integrity of science, we must continue to urge USFWS not to kill 40 years of recovery.

The USFWS’s delisting proposal is open for public comment for 90 days, ending September 11.

We encourage you to begin taking action immediately via the Federal Registerhere

Our friends from National Wolfwatcher Coalition offers useful talking points here.