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Conservation groups fight to protect gray wolves from ESA delisting

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Wolves are under attack in the US again after being brought back from the brink of total extermination in the mid 70s and put under Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection.

Since 2011, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), has been systematically stripping ESA safeguards for wolves at state levels with 1,705 wolves already killed across five states. Experts say the delistings were based on flawed science used to create state management plans that could result in failure to protect gray wolves before they have fully recovered to genetically viable numbers.

Today, wolves occupy less than 5 percent of their original historic range across the nation.

According to EarthJustice, research has shown the wildlife tourism benefit for wolves alone in Yellowstone National Park floats $70 million a year into the regional economy of Northern Rockies communities. Wolves play a vital ecological role. There are now healthier herds of elk in Yellowstone where park rangers once had to shoot them to keep down their numbers. Where wolves exist, there’s more balance in wildlife populations from prong-horned elk to songbirds.

Ined, according to Defenders of Wildlife, scientists are only beginning to fully understand the positive effect of wolves throughout an entire ecosystem.

Strong wolf populations are clearly important for economic and ecological reasons, but conservation groups fear the federal government is about to pull protections for the top predator on a national scale.

Based on faulty recommendations, the Department of Interior (DOI) supported USFWS solutions in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota and most recently a new USFWS proposal that would allow protections against killing and trapping wolves to be removed from all 48 states.

Nonetheless, under pressure, the DOI and USFWS decided in in September to restart the peer review process for delisting gray wolves.

Here’s a September press release statement from Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR):

I applauded a recent decision by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to restart the peer review process for the proposed delisting of gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell earlier this month, DeFazio called into question USFWS’ management of and improper influence over the independent scientific peer review of the proposed rule.

Fish and Wildlife Services improperly influenced the so-called independent scientific peer review of the delisting of the Gray Wolf. Gray Wolves have only just begun to return to portions of the Pacific Northwest, California, southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast and continue to need protection in these areas if they are to truly recover.

Wildlife biologists had complained to DeFazio that previous USFWS decisions to delist wolves were based on only two studies, while their expertise and research were ignored.

Supporters of wolf protection claim that politics and special interests are at play in stacking the deck against the survival of wolves. The powerful Cattlemen’s Association, many ranchers, hunters and land owners approve government plans to remove ESA protection for wolves, while many wolves have been illegally shot, trapped and slaughtered.

Rep. DeFazio also requested and received an extension on the comment deadline from the middle of September to Dec. 17. There are currently over 222,000 comments on the site.

Furthermore, the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife are sponsoring a major meeting in Seattle to rally for protection of wolves and their habit.

Here are the details:

WHO: You, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and friends!
WHAT: Washington for Wolves rally and citizen's hearing. Event will be indoors and coffee, tea, apple juice, cake, oranges and cookies will be provided.
WHEN: Sunday, December 15. Indoor rally from 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. and citizen's testimony from 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
WHERE: Seattle Central Library Microsoft Auditorium, 1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104 [Map]
Questions: Contact Graham Taylor at graham.taylor@sierraclub.org

EarthJustice, Natural Resources Development Council (NRDC) and other conservation groups stand ready to fight for wolves in court if the USFWS proposal goes forward on removing wolf protection under the ESA.

For more information on wolves from Defenders of Wildlife click here. To leave a comment on the government site about wolf delisting click here.

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