Trump Administration Halts Wolf Recovery
In the latest attack on endangered species, the Trump administration today finalized a rule stripping protections from gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states. The politically-driven move will turn wolf management over to historically hostile state agencies.
The final rule dismisses concerns raised by independent scientific peer reviews commissioned by the Fish and Wildlife Service itself who found that the agency’s proposal ignored science and appeared to come to a predetermined conclusion, with inadequate scientific support.[i] The administration ignores the nearly two million people who voiced opposition to eliminating protection for wolves.[ii] Additionally, 86 members of Congress (in both the House[iii] and Senate[iv]), 100 scientists,[v] 230 businesses,[vi] and 367 veterinary professionals[vii] all submitted letters opposing the wolf delisting plan.
“Wolves are not recovered. They remain absent from significant portions of their range, including prime habitat in Utah, Colorado, and struggle to survive throughout most of the Pacific Northwest,” stated Dave Parsons, Carnivore Conservationist Biologist for The Rewildling Institute. “This decision reflects the blatant disregard the Trump administration has for credible science, the informed public opinion, and Wild Nature in general.”
A recent peer-reviewed study published in the journal Bioscience[viii] debunks the flawed science behind national wolf delisting proposal and suggests reforms to make agency policy on recovery of widely-distributed species coherent and science-based. Summarizing the study’s findings, The lead author, Dr. Carlos Carroll, stated “Our results show not only the lack of scientific integrity with which the current administration has approached wolf delisting, but also how current policy falls short when dealing with species such as the wolf that have developed a diversity of unique types that are adapted to different habitats.”
“For example, wolves recolonizing the Pacific Northwest have included dispersers from the coastal rainforests of British Columbia. These wolves, which feed on salmon among other foods, are adapted to a different environment than wolves in the forests surrounding the Great Lakes. If applied to other species, the wolf delisting rule’s approach would represent a significant scaling back of recovery efforts for widely-distributed species.”
“The decision to remove critical protections for still-recovering gray wolves is dangerously short-sighted, especially in the face of an extinction crisis,” stated Michael Brune, Executive Director for the Sierra Club. “We should be putting more effort into coexistence with wolves, working to ensure their survival and balance our natural systems instead of stripping critical protections still needed for their full recovery. The science is clear that to protect our communities and prevent future pandemics, we need to be doing more to protect nature and wildlife, not less.”
“As we’ve seen in the Northern Rockies, politically-motivated delisting has led to in decimating wolf populations and undermining decades of wolf recovery progress,” states Kirk Robinson, Executive Director for the Utah-based Western Wildlife Conservancy. “Utah for example has passed legislation forbidding the establishment of a single wolf pack in areas where wolves are no longer protected by the Endangered Species Act.”
Still, more than 6,300 wolves, more than the likely total survivors in the lower 48 states, have been killed in state-sanctioned hunting and trapping seasons in states where wolves were delisted.
“The decision to throw the wolf under the bus should come as no surprise from an administration that dismisses the death of nearly 230,000 Americans from Covid19 as mostly a PR problem,” states Kim Crumbo, Vietnam War veteran and Wildlands Coordinator for The Rewilding Institute. “The wolf’s struggle is symbolic of our struggle against an anti-science and incompetent regime indifferent to the fate of the Earth and its diversity of life, humans included.”
World renown animal behavior expert and conservationist, Dr. Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace, decried this decision citing the important roles that wolves play in their ecosystems and the fact that the move lacks both the support of the scientific community, as well as the public. Watch her response below.
Featured Image: Gray wolf (Canis lupus). Photo courtesy of Gary Kramer, USFWS.
[i] Summary Report of Independent Peer Reviews for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Gray Wolf Delisting Review Atkins | Version 1.0 | May 2019 | 1000062975 https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/gray_wolves/pdfs/Gray-Wolf-Peer-Review-Summary-Report_053119.pdf.
[ii] 1.8 Million People Oppose Trump Effort to End Gray Wolf Protection, July 15, 2019. https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/18-million-people-oppose-trump-effort-end-gray-wolf-protection-2019-07-15/.
[iii] Beyer Leads Bipartisan Letter Urging Secretary of Interior to Withdraw Proposal Delisting Gray Wolves, May 15, 2019, https://beyer.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=4331.
[iv] Letter to Secretary Bernhart on Wolf Delisting, https://www.scribd.com/document/416315372/Letter-to-Secretary-Bernhardt-on-Wolf-Delisting, July 8, 2019, signed by Senators Cory Booker, Sheldon Whitehouse, Gary Peters, Richard Blumenthal, Tom Udall, Kirstern Gillibrand, Bernard Sanders, Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, Edward J. Markey, Jack Reed, Sherrod Brown, Mazie K. Hirono, Robert Menendez, Catherine Cortez, and Jacky Rosen.
[v] An Open Letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Scientists and Scholars on Federal Wolf Delisting in the Context of the Endangered Species Act, May 7, 2019, https://blog.humanesociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Scientists-Lower48delistingMay2019.pdf, accessed October 29, 2020.
[vii] Humane Society Veterinary Medical Society, July 11, 2019, Veterinary Memo of Opposition Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-20018-0097, https://hsvma.memberclicks.net/assets/pdfs/FWSWolfDelisting_VeterinaryOppositionStatement.pdf.
[viii] Carroll, Carlos, Daniel J. Rohlf, Bridgette M. vonHoldt, Adrian Treves, and Sarah A. Hendricks. 2020. Wolf Delisting Challenges Demonstrate Need for An Improved Framerwork for Conserving Intraspecific Variation Under the Endangered Species Act. Bioscience XX:1-12. doi:10.1093/biosci/biaa125. Available at https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biaa125/5941853. Accessed October 29, 2020.
Kim Crumbo continues a 40-year career in Wild Nature conservation beginning with Colorado River protection in the early 1970’s. Inspired by the 1992 Wild Earth special edition, he assists an eclectic array of conservationist partners in development and implementation of the Western Wildway, including wilderness and national monument designations, and recovery of the Mexican wolf and other keystone species. His work includes active participation an ad hoc collaborative effort of local, regional, and national conservation, scientific and sportsmen’s organizations, and concerned citizens to help save the endangered Mexican gray wolf. [Read Kim’s full bio here…]