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Pinedale Online > News > July 2014 > Wolf Buffer Zones Around National Parks?
Wolf Buffer Zones Around National Parks?
by U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio press release
July 8, 2014

This week, Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) sent a letter urging Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to create critical buffer zones to protect endangered gray wolves in or around our National Parks. In 2011, Congress legislated a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to prematurely delist the gray wolf in Idaho, Montana, parts of Oregon and Washington when that proposal failed to pass muster in the courts. Since then numerous wolves have been killed just outside park borders.

In the letter, DeFazio writes, "Even with the delisting rule, killing or trapping wolves is prohibited inside Yellowstone National Park. However, gray wolves do not respect invisible park boundaries and once the wolves cross out of the park and onto bordering lands, there are myriad inconsistent state regulations that allow hunters to kill wolves on sight; in some instances without limit. As a result, the Yellowstone wolves are being shot and killed right outside the borders of the park."

For over three years, the population of gray wolves in Yellowstone has steadily decreased as a result of hunting-related deaths. According to wildlife biologists, Yellowstone’s wolf population dropped 25% between 2011 and the end of 2012. The National Park Service reports that as of March 1, 2013, 12 Yellowstone National Park wolves were legally harvested just outside the park borders. To highlight one specific case, in late 2012, the New York Times reported that the renowned alpha wolf, 832F, was shot and killed just 15 miles outside park boundaries in Wyoming.

In the letter, DeFazio requests that the Department of the Interior (DOI) undertake a concerted and coordinated effort to work with the states to establish a uniform wolf safety zone or buffer around Yellowstone National Park. He also asks DOI to establish an Interagency Wolf Task Force for the purpose of coordinating across the federal and state agencies to protect park wolves from adverse effects of trophy hunting and other causes of human-induced mortality in all National Parks with wolf populations.

DeFazio also sent a letter to Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Dan Ashe, questioning his defense of the science used to justify the Service’s recent proposal to remove critical protections for endangered gray wolves in the remaining lower 48 states. In March, DeFazio led a bipartisan letter co-signed by 73 House members urging Secretary Jewell to withdraw the flawed proposal. The letter came on the heels of an independent peer review that found the Service failed to use the "best available science" when it drafted the proposed rule that would remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the continental United States.

"In press accounts, you have indicated you have no second thoughts on the delisting proposal and dismissed the peer review as being too technical, despite the fact that the peer reviewers answered the questions that the Service put to them. It is remarkable that we would spend 20 years or more committed to the recovery of this species only to see it vanish well before the job has been completed. That is not only irresponsible, it is shameful, and I do not believe it is the goal of the ESA. In short, I find the morphing explanation based upon science which has failed a peer review to be unworthy of your agency," DeFazio wrote to Director Ashe.

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