For Immediate Release
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
52 Members of Congress Urge Continued Federal Protections for Wolves in Lower 48 States
Bipartisan Group Asks U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Retain Protections for Wolves in Pacific Northwest, California, Southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast
PORTLAND, Ore. - In an effort championed by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), 52 House members sent a letter today to the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging an about-face on the agency’s anticipated proposal to remove federal protections for wolves across most of the lower 48 United States.
“We are grateful that these 52 representatives are standing strong for continued federal protections for wolves,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With wolves only just beginning to recover in the Pacific Northwest, California, southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast, now’s not the time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to turn its back on wolf recovery.”
An estimated 2 million wolves once roamed freely across North America, including most of the United States. But bounties, a federal extermination program and human settlement drove the species to near extinction in most of the lower 48. While protected by the Endangered Species Act, wolf populations in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Western Great Lakes states increased; but these regions amount to a mere 5 percent of the wolf’s original range, and in other regions wolves are only just beginning to return.
“The job of wolf recovery is far from over and the members of Congress who have written to the Service are asking that science, not politics, guide federal wolf management,” said Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands. “Maintaining federal protections is critical in allowing wolves to assume their valuable ecological role across the American landscape.”
Since the original wolf recovery plans were written in the 1980s, scientists have learned much more about wolves’ behavior, ecology and needs. Research has shown that returning wolves to ecosystems sets off a chain of events that benefits many species, including songbirds and beavers that gain from a return of streamside vegetation, which thrives in the absence of browsing elk that must move more often to avoid wolves. And pronghorn and foxes are aided by wolves’ control of coyote populations. Protecting ecosystems upon which species depend is a specific goal of the Endangered Species Act — all the more reason for expanded, rather than diminished, wolf recovery efforts.
Bowing to political pressure from wolf opponents, the Service has no plans for wolf recovery in areas beyond those regions it has deemed recovered (the northern Rockies and western Great Lakes). In states where federal delisting has occurred, there are insufficient protections from local pressures to hunt or “control” wolves back to the brink of extinction. In the 18 months since federal delisting began in 2011, more than 1,700 of the 5,000-6,000 recovered wolves in the lower 48 have been killed.
Conservation organizations are hopeful that Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewell will be a stronger advocate for wolves than outgoing Secretary Ken Salazar, who never called for comprehensive gray wolf recovery across the country.
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