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Pinedale Online > News > January 2009 > Defenders pledges wolf lawsuit
Defenders pledges wolf lawsuit
by Defenders of Wildlife press release
January 16, 2009

Today, in a last-ditch effort by the Bush administration to undermine environmental protections, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the Northern Rockies gray wolf will be taken off the Endangered Species List. This decision is yet another attempt to prematurely strip wolves of legal protection before the clock runs out next Tuesday on the most anti-environment administration in American history.

The Bush administration’s prior effort to delist the Northern Rockies wolf was rebuffed in federal court and then voluntarily withdrawn by the FWS shortly afterwards. This latest attempt to remove federal protection for wolves is not based on new science and does not fix the legal deficiencies cited by the federal court when it blocked the previous delisting attempt. Moreover, in rushing to again delist wolves, the Bush administration ignored calls by Defenders of Wildlife and others to involve stakeholders throughout the region in developing a strategy that addresses inadequate state wolf management plans, particularly in Wyoming and Idaho, and meets the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

Below is a statement by Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, regarding today’s announcement.

"This blatantly political maneuver is hardly surprising. The Bush administration has been trying to strip Endangered Species Act protections from the Northern Rockies wolf since the day it took office – no matter the dire consequences of delisting wolves prematurely and without adequate state protections in place.

"The Bush administration is forcing the future of wolves in the region to play out in the courts by finalizing a delisting rule in its last hours in office. We intend to challenge this poorly constructed decision in court as soon as the law allows. It is outrageous that the Bush administration has chosen to create this unnecessary legal problem for the new Obama administration to deal with as it takes office.

"It is nonsensical to rush this rule through when states have plans in place to kill hundreds of wolves as soon as they’re delisted from federal protection. If the wolf population drops to the minimum of 300 to 450 wolves in the entire region, we already know, based on the most current science, that it cannot remain genetically viable for the long-term.

"We need to slow the process down and make sure it is done right – using science as the benchmark for recovery goals. Today’s delisting rule fails adequately to address biologists’ concerns about the lack of genetic exchange among wolf populations in the Northern Rockies.

"If allowed to stand, this rule would mean that the Northern Rockies wolf population could be slashed by as much as two-thirds, placing approximately 1,000 of the region’s roughly 1,450 wolves in peril. This is a loss from which they most likely would be unable to recover."

"We trust that the Obama administration will see this for what it is, one last anti-environment blast from the most anti-environment administration in American history. We look forward to working with the new administration to fix this and to ensure wolf recovery that truly merits taking wolves off the endangered species list. That will be an accomplishment to celebrate."

Below is a statement from Suzanne Asha Stone, Defenders of Wildlife representative for the Northern Rockies:

"Ramming through a flawed plan that has already been rejected by the courts doesn’t make any sense. The bottom line is wolves are a wildlife resource and an important part of our natural resources heritage. Wolves should be managed to maintain sustainable healthy populations, the way we manage mountain lions, bears and other wildlife. The states should not be allowed to kill two thirds of our regional wolf population just because wolves lose federal protection.

Our regional residents need a science based delisting plan that addresses the needs of both wolves and people. Instead of forcing this issue back into the courts, the Service should help bring all interested parties to the table, allowing stakeholders to iron out solutions to the management conflicts. We can move forward to delisting, and we should, but only under rationale conditions.

Our only reasonable course of action is again to challenge the delisting in court until the Service takes a science based approach towards long term recovery goals for wolves in the Northern Rockies."

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