Federal Protections Restored for Northern Rockies’ Wolves

A U.S. District court on Thursday overturned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) decision to remove gray wolves in the Northern Rockies from the endangered species list. The court sided with Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation organizations that sued to restore federal protections.

Wolves were eradicated from the region by the 1930s as part of an
overall campaign to eliminate native predators. With the
adoption of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, efforts began to restore
the Northern Rockies wolf population.

Wolves dispersing across the
Canadian border into northern Montana in the 1970s and 1980s were the
first to return to their historic habitat in the region. By 1995, that
population had grown to 60-70 wolves.

To expedite wolf recovery, in
1995 and 1996 the US Fish and Wildlife Service captured 66 wolves from
Canada and released them in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park.
Since that time, wolf numbers have increased to approximately 2,000
wolves in 2009, the same number that many biologists have estimated
would be necessary for maintaining a recovered wolf population. However,
that same year, Idaho and Montana initiated hunting seasons which
reduced the wolf population down to 1650 wolves by the end of 2009. 

immediate effect of today’s court ruling will be to cancel a second
wolf hunting season in Montana and Idaho, which was set to begin this
fall and would have decreased the population to even lower levels. State
agencies will still be able to manage wolves, including removing
problem wolves implicated in livestock conflicts or causing unnatural
declines in game species.

“Secretary Salazar’s support of the Bush administration’s proposal to remove protections for wolves was premature and clearly inconsistent with the law," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. " Had the federal government prevailed in the lawsuit, real wolf recovery would have been set back for perhaps decades. Worse, the precedent of the federal government making listing and delisting decisions for endangered species based upon political boundaries rather than science would have crippled the Interior Department’s future management of the Endangered Species Act to the detriment of many species."

Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative with Defenders of Wildlife issued the following statement:

“While we are pleased by the restoration of federal protection for wolves, the court’s decision demonstrates the problems inherent in the federal government’s current delisting scheme. We need a new approach. We need a federal delisting plan that establishes a healthy, interconnected wolf population and adopts stakeholder-driven solutions to the current conflicts. It’s time to move beyond the gridlock over wolves."

In Other Wildlife News…

Deadly white-nose syndrome is threatening to make one insect-eating species of bat extinct, at least regionally, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

Read Reuters coverage at the link below.

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