The recent news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has halted their plans to remove the grey wolf from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) imparts a feeling of guarded hope.
Why the indefinite delay was ordered is unclear, but perhaps the pressure exerted by the general public, government officials and wildlife biologists has had an effect.
Last week, a letter sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell from Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva urged the pause on delisting to be made permanent. Grijalva states, ”Now is the time to support full wolf recovery, not shut down our efforts.”
Other letters in support of the grey wolf have also made their way to Jewell’s office. One from the American Society of Mammologists explains that the society members anticipate the day when wolves no longer need federal protection, but they add, “… we believe it is premature to declare that that day has arrived.”
Sixteen scientists from around the globe, who have a vested interest in the decision because, “Collectively, we represent many of the scientists responsible for the research referenced in the draft rule,” sent Jewell a letter as well. Their response details the lack of evidence for taking wolves off the Endangered Species List. This letter also explains that the Pacific wolf population should be seen as a distinct population, partly due to the fact that genetic studies have shown that some of these wolves are comprised of stock from the rare coastal British Columbia wolves. The sixteen scientists argue that while the Mexican grey wolf should certainly be protected by Federal Law, there must be a specific geographic area designated to keep them safe in. The letter also doubts the reasoning behind the proposal to prematurely name Canis lupus lyacon (Eastern grey wolf) as a separate species.
Thousands have emailed Jewell in a plea to keep the wolf on the Endangered Species List. This move won’t help wolves in areas where they are already controlled by the states, but the ruling is crucial for the rest of the country, including Oregon and Washington, where wolf populations are just beginning to stabilize. So far, no state government has stood up to protect their wolves. It is doubtful that any will, expect perhaps California where a move is underway to maintain the grey wolf under their own Endangered Species Act.
This is a crucial moment not only for the grey wolf but for the future interpretation of the Endangered Species Act. As Garrick Dutcher of Living with Wolves says, “Wise forward-thinking policy brought wolves back and advancing science has revealed and recorded the central role wolves play in restoring vitality to ecosystems. But today, science may be forced to take a back seat as political decisions once again threaten to shift policy out of their favor. For all the successes of the Endangered Species Act, the true test of its brawn is knocking at the door. Will the entrenched land use issues that saw the original demise of America’s wolves prevail as they once again are hunted, trapped and snared to ecologically irrelevant numbers? Or will wolves be allowed to achieve a real recovery?”
If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has delayed the delisting due to external pressure we have reason to feel hopeful. However Defenders of Wildlife’s Suzanne Asha Stone reminds us, “Don’t trust this pause in the storm. It is only the calm eye in the middle of the hurricane. Time to pump up the volume even more.”
When I inquired as to what you and I can do to help, Suzanne replied. “…call, write, yell, plead, and beg with Secretary Jewell, and anyone in congress or the White House who will listen.
We can’t let this good news allow for complacency. Contact Jewell at the Department of the Interior, through Defenders of Wildlife or another proactive non-profit. Peruse the excellent website of Center For Biological Diversity for more ways to make sure your voice is heard.