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Conservation Group Says “Americans Will Howl With Rage,” Promises Legal Action
LIVINGSTON, Mont. (February 21, 2008) – Wolves in the Northern Rockies will lose protection under the Endangered Species Act under a new plan announced today by the Bush administration. The plan to “delist” the wolves threatens to reverse one of America’s most successful wildlife recovery efforts and puts the species back at risk of extinction, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“Americans will howl with rage when they learn that their government is jeopardizing this iconic animal,” said NRDC’s Louisa Willcox. “Why snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when we’ve made so much progress toward recovering wolves in the Greater Yellowstone region?”
NRDC said it will immediately notify the government of its intent to file a lawsuit challenging the delisting decision. It said that it is premature to revoke endangered species protections because the wolves have not fully recovered.
Under the delisting plan, the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming would take over managing the wolves from the federal government. All three states have stated their intent to allow hunting, trapping and other killing of wolves. The wolves – which now number around 1,500 animals – would still be considered recovered even if their numbers drop as low as 300.
“Three hundred animals is not enough for the wolves to survive in the long run,” said Willcox. Far more wolves are needed before the species can be considered truly recovered.”
For the Northern Rockies, independent scientists say the recovery goal should be at least 2,500 to 5,000 wolves in at least three interconnected populations in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. They say that viable populations should also be established in Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Washington.
Even Ed Bangs, the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf recovery project, admits he thinks that 300 wolves are not enough. In a Science Magazine article on February 15 Bangs said, “I personally think it [the recovery goal] is too low.”
Earlier this week, NRDC filed a petition requesting that the Fish and Wildlife Service establish legitimate targets for recovery of wolves throughout the lower 48 states. In its petition, NRDC demonstrates that the service failed to recover wolves on much of the available public lands where wolves formerly lived, and ignored decades of scientific analysis. Without explanation or any scientific basis, the service set widely different recovery goals in the Midwest, Northern Rockies and Southwest regions.
The reintroduction of wolves by the federal government 12 years ago has been widely hailed as a major success story. It has measurably improved the natural balance in the Northern Rockies and benefited bird, antelope and elk populations, according to NRDC. Many thousands of visitors flock to Yellowstone National Park each year to see and hear wolves in the wild, contributing at least $35 million to the local economy each year, the group said.
Thousands of gray wolves roamed the Rocky Mountains before being slaughtered and eliminated from 95 percent of the lower 48 states by the 1930s. The gray wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Reintroduction efforts placed 66 wolves in Yellowstone National Park and part of Idaho in 1995-96.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.