In a blow to endangered species recovery, Secretary Zinke wants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to decrease federal protections for wildlife and align these measures with less-restrictive state practices – essentially dismantling the federal Endangered Species Act.
What does this mean for critically endangered animals like red wolves and Mexican gray wolves? Less protection, less land on which to roam, and, ultimately, less support from state agencies.
Wildlife agencies in North Carolina and the southwest states are quite vocal when it comes to voicing their displeasure at participating in recovery programs for critically endangered wolves, so Secretary Zinke’s proposal to align federal rules with states’ wants and regulations will prove to be devastating for red wolves and Mexican wolves. How devastating? If history is anything to go off of, it will result in the extinction of these essential creatures.
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) requested that USFWS declare red wolves extinct in the wild and terminate the recovery program in North Carolina in both 2015 and, most recently, July of 2018.
Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) asked Congress to remove all federal protections for Mexican wolves when there were only 50 wild lobos in the entire world, and penned a letter to USFWS insisting the majority of Mexican wolf recovery must occur in Mexico, even though peer-reviewed science indicates Mexico does not have enough suitable habitat to prevent the extinction of Mexican wolves. New Mexico Game and Fish Department (NMGFD) has followed suit, even going as far as to block much-needed wolf releases that would bolster the genetic diversity of the wild lobo population.
Wildlife protection transcends state boundaries, as wildlife belongs to all Americans, not just residents of a particular state.