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Salazar Upholds Bush-era Decision to Delist Gray Wolves
WASHINGTON, DC - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today affirmed the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species in the western Great Lakes and the northern Rocky Mountain states of Idaho and Montana and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah. Wolves will remain a protected species in Wyoming.
"The recovery of the gray wolf throughout significant portions of its historic range is one of the great success stories of the Endangered Species Act," Salazar said. "When it was listed as endangered in 1974, the wolf had almost disappeared from the continental United States. Today, we have more than 5,500 wolves, including more than 1,600 in the Rockies."
"The successful recovery of this species is a stunning example of how the Act can work to keep imperiled animals from sliding into extinction," he said. "The recovery of the wolf has not been the work of the federal government alone. It has been a long and active partnership including states, tribes, landowners, academic researchers, sportsmen and other conservation groups, the Canadian government and many other partners."
Environmentalists immediately said they will mount a legal challenge to Salazar's decision.
"Today is a truly disappointing day for Americans who care deeply about the Northern Rockies wolf population and for the integrity of the Endangered Species Act. We are outraged and disappointed that Secretary Salazar has chosen to push the same, terrible Bush administration plan for wolf delisting just six weeks into President Obama's administration," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president for Defenders of Wildlife.
"We all expected more from the Obama administration, but Defenders of Wildlife will now move to sue Secretary Salazar as quickly as possible," he said.
Suzanne Stone, northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said, "Nothing about this rule has changed since it was rejected and deemed unlawful in a federal court in July of 2008. It still fails to adequately address biological concerns about the lack of genetic exchange among wolf populations in the northern Rockies and it still fails to address the concerns with the states' wolf management plans and regulations that undermine a sustainable wolf population by killing too many wolves."
But Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, a Republican, and all four members of Idaho's congressional delegation praised Salazar's decision.
"Wolves are a fully recovered species that is thriving in Idaho. That's a fact, and it is heartening to see that Secretary Salazar recognizes it," said Governor Otter, who urged today's action when he met with Secretary Salazar last month at the National Governors Association conference in Washington, DC.
"We know that well-intentioned but narrowly focused interest groups will challenge this decision, but we in Idaho are determined to continue our policy of responsibly managing wolves for a viable, sustainable population that can co-exist with our ungulate herds, our livestock and our people," the governor said.
"Secretary Salazar is to be commended for his common-sense decision that now allows Idaho's wolf management plan to be fully implemented," said Senator Mike Crapo, a Republican. "Idaho's plan reflects the biological reality on the ground and sets the stage for a much more collaborative approach to wolf management in the future."
"As contentious as this planning has been at times, the effort involving the federal government, the State of Idaho, the tribes, the livestock industry and conservationists has been affirmed by the Secretary and reflects yet again the power of collaboration in successfully recovering species," Crapo said.
"As Idaho Governor in 2006 I strongly pushed for the delisting of wolves in our state," said Senator Jim Risch, a Republican. "Those efforts included conference calls with the Deputy Secretary of the Interior and meetings with the Montana Governor and other Interior officials urging that delisting."
"My belief was then, and it is affirmed today, that wolves in Idaho are fully recovered and can be managed in a sustainable and responsible way within our borders," said Risch. "I greatly appreciate Secretary Salazar's decision and am confident that it will stand in the face of any litigation it may face."
"Over the last month I have lobbied Secretary Salazar to act quickly on this issue. I'm pleased today to see the Department of Interior do just that, and to see the administration acknowledge that states should be in control," said Congressman Walt Minnick, a Democrat. "I've had extensive discussions on this issue with other members of Congress from the West, including Rep. John Salazar, a fellow Blue Dog Democrat and western Colorado cattle rancher who happens to be the secretary's brother. They all recognize the need for local collaboration and local control, and were instrumental in helping move the delisting forward."
The Fish and Wildlife Service originally announced the decision to delist the wolf in January, but the new administration decided to review the decision as part of an overall regulatory review when it came into office. The Service will now send the delisting regulation to the Federal Register for publication.
The Service decided to delist the wolf in Idaho and Montana because they have approved state wolf management plans in place that will ensure the conservation of the species in the future.
At the same time, the Service determined wolves in Wyoming would still be listed under the Act because Wyoming's current state law and wolf management plan are not sufficient to conserve its portion of northern Rocky Mountain wolf population.
Gray wolves were previously listed as endangered in the lower 48 states, except in Minnesota where they were listed as threatened. The Service oversees three separate recovery programs for the gray wolf; each has its own recovery plan and recovery goals based on the unique characteristics of wolf populations in each geographic area.
Wolves in other parts of the 48 states, including the Southwest wolf population, remain endangered and are not affected by the actions taken today.