Wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes Lose Protections

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes Lose Protections

Lawsuit to Follow

SILVER CITY, N.M. - Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves in the
upper Midwest and most of the northern Rocky Mountains from the list of
endangered species, following through on a Bush administration plan to
increase federal and private hunting of wolves.

"Recovery of the much-persecuted gray wolf has not yet been achieved,"
said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of
the conservation organizations that twice before stopped delisting
during the Bush years through successful court challenges.

The current delisting rule was published in the waning days of the Bush
administration, put on hold by the incoming Obama administration, and
then approved without change on April 2, 2009 for activation today.

Conservation organizations including the Center for Biological
Diversity, represented by EarthJustice, filed a 60-day notice of intent
to sue that will become ripe on June 2, 2009. The Endangered Species
Act requires 60 days' notice before commencement of litigation to allow
time for a violating party to change course and cease its violation.

"We fear that once again wolves will be wantonly slaughtered before a court can rule," said Robinson.

Between March 28, 2008, when gray wolves were last delisted, and
lasting until July 18, 2008, when federal judge Donald W. Molloy
restored the animals in the northern Rocky Mountains to the endangered species list, more than 100 wolves were killed.

Wolves once roamed almost all of the United States, but today survive
in a small fraction of their historic range. Today's removal of
protection for wolves in nearly all of their current range seriously
undermines efforts to recover them to portions of their historic range
where they no longer occur.

"Wolves play a vital
role in natural ecosystems," said Robinson, "and they should be
restored to places such as the northeastern United States, southern
Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, and Sierra Nevada."

Even where numbers of wolves have substantially increased, they have
not yet fully recovered, say conservationists. Fewer than 200 breeding
wolves survive in the northern Rocky Mountains, far below the barebones
and still-dicey figure of 500 breeding animals that independent
biologists have determined are necessary to avoid long-term genetic
problems and decline.

The state of Idaho plans to
kill hundreds of wolves, including those within 26 family packs that
the federal predator-killing agency, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's Wildlife Services, identified as a priority for
elimination this coming winter. Many of these wolves have been
radio-collared, and are likely to be gunned down from the air.

State plans in the Great Lakes states also allow killing of a
significant number of wolves, even as disease is resulting in loss of
many wolf pups.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is
keeping wolves in Wyoming on the endangered species list because the
state refused to provide even the minimal (and inadequate) protections
that the states of Idaho and Montana pledged to - and because Judge
Molloy cited Wyoming's particularly lethal wolf-management plan as one
reason to enjoin delisting last year. That led the federal agency to
identify wolves in Wyoming as part of a regional northern Rocky
Mountain wolf population, but keep wolves there on the endangered list.

"Setting up a system in which wolves in a
population are both endangered and not endangered was not contemplated
and is not supported by the Endangered Species Act," said Robinson.
"This is a contortionist's interpretation of a law that doesn't need
any distortion."

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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