WASHINGTON - July 16 - The Sierra Club today called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) plan to remove the "eastern population" of gray wolves from the endangered species list a case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The USFWS announced that wolves in all of the states in and east of the Dakotas will be delisted, including the wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
What ought to be a celebration of a conservation success is instead a cruel hoax, said Ginny Yingling, a member of the Sierra Clubs national working group on wolf issues. Wolves in Minnesota have thrived under federal protection, proving that the Endangered Species Act works. Theyve reached a point where they ought to be delisted, but the state's proposed management plan for our wolves amounts to little more than open season. It simply is not safe to turn over management of our wolves to the state.
Under the management plan drafted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in the southwestern two-thirds of the state, any property owner or their agent may kill a wolf at any time without cause. In the so-called "wolf protection zone" in the northeastern third of the state, wolves may be killed if the property owner "believes" they pose a threat to their domestic animals.
Under this plan, wolves may be shot, caught in leg-hold traps, strangled in neck snare traps, or killed by pretty much any other means except poisoning or aerial shooting. The state can even hire trappers to kill wolves at $150 each, said Yingling. The management plan also specifically rejects requiring protection of critical habitat for wolves.
Wolf numbers were thought to be as high as 2,500 in the late 1990s. However, earlier this year researchers reported that the wolf population in Minnesota may be declining, apparently because of mange and parvo virus. This has raised concerns regarding how additional killing of wolves under the states management plan may affect the wolf populations in the Great Lakes region.
Since 1973 the Endangered Species Act has worked to conserve America's imperiled fish, wildlife and plant resources, said Bart Semcer, Sierra Club Fish and Wildlife Specialist. Since then, these conservation measures have been credited with preventing the extinction of more than 1,200 species in the United States including the gray wolf. We cannot turn our backs on this progress.
If properly managed and protected by the state, the wolves in Minnesota could and should be delisted, because they have thrived with protection, and our experience has shown they can co-exist with humans, added Yingling. But, with our wolves looking down the barrel of a gun, into the jaws of a trap, or worse, under the states terrible management plan, delisting should be opposed.