Obama halts wolf delisting
by Center for Biological Diversity press release
January 22, 2009
President Barack Obama has issued a freeze on publication of federal regulations planned under the previous administration but not yet published in the Federal Register. This action, which will give the new administration a chance to review Bush-era policy decisions, will delay and possibly prevent the premature removal of gray wolves from the endangered species list in Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, and portions of Washington, Oregon, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
According to Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, the pause will afford President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar the opportunity to rethink the previous administration’s efforts to remove wolves from the endangered species list. "Rather than remove protections from wolves in a piecemeal fashion, in the isolated locations where they have finally begun to recover from past persecution," Robinson said, " the Obama administration should develop and implement a national gray-wolf recovery plan that will ensure the survival of these magnificent animals."
Gray wolves are gone from over 95 percent of their historic range, including on millions of acres of national forests, national parks and Bureau of Land Management public lands whose ecological health has suffered in the absence of wolves.
"Gray wolves are the engine of evolution for natural ecosystems," said Robinson..
In the northern Rocky Mountains, wolf numbers are too low and populations too fragmented to ensure long-term survival. For example, the Bush administration intended to delist wolves in Idaho and Montana even though those states house only 75 breeding pairs of wolves – far below the hundreds of breeding animals necessary to maintain population viability without debilitating genetic problems.
Even these 75 breeding pairs are not secure since the Idaho and Montana wolf-management plans allow for excessive killing of wolves, including a majority of the wolves in Idaho alone.
Two previous attempts to remove protections from the wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains were struck down by federal courts.
In the upper Midwest, the Bush administration intended to remove wolves from the endangered species list after its previous attempts were also judicially remanded. Here too, piecemeal delisting is inappropriate
Robinson concluded: "Wolves should not be removed from protection until they are secure and recovered in a larger and more viable portion of their range."
The Fish and Wildlife Service and its predecessor agency were responsible for the extermination of wolves throughout much of the 20th century on behalf of the livestock industry. Gray wolves survived in small numbers in the upper Midwest and expanded under the protections of the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Wolves began recolonizing northern Montana and Idaho on their own in the 1980s, and numbers grew significantly after the 1995 and 1996 reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.
Under an exception to the Act, Fish and Wildlife Service actions have resulted in the federal killing on behalf of the livestock industry of 931 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and at least 1,951 wolves in the Great Lakes region from 1996 through 2008.