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
"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