President Obama simply cannot ignore a letter from 24 influential environmental non-profits, including Oregon Wild, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild), Defenders of Wildlife, Predator Defense, Big Wildlife, Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance, and the Sierra Club.
The letter, see link below, calls for continued protection under the Endangered Species Act for wolves in the Pacific Northwest. As this update on Oregon Wild’s website explains, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is close to making a decision as to whether wolves in the Northwest will retain this much needed protection.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (from OREGON WILD website)
Conservationists Call on Obama Administration to Protect Wolves
Twenty-four Conservation Groups Call on President Obama to Maintain Protections for Wolves in the Pacific Northwest
PORTLAND, ORE Aug 13, 2012
Twenty-four conservation organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife, Cascadia Wildlands, Sierra Club, NRDC, and others sent a letter to President Obama today asking for continued Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the Pacific Northwest. The groups sent the letter because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to make a decision about whether wolves in the Northwest and other areas will retain protection.
“Wolves are only just beginning to recover in the Pacific Northwest and need the continued protections of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves once roamed across most of the Pacific Northwest, but today occupy just a fraction of their former range.”
There are now about 100 wolves dispersed among five Oregon packs and eight in Washington. All but two of these packs — the Lookout and Teanaway packs — lost federal protection along with the northern Rocky Mountains population, delisted by an act of Congress. The conservation groups are asking the administration to retain protection for these two packs and to develop a recovery plan for wolves in the Pacific Northwest, including in western Washington and Oregon and parts of California.
“Wolves called the Pacific Northwest home for 10,000 years,” said Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest. “The fact that wolves are returning to the Cascades on their own is a good sign, but if we want them to survive and fully recover they will need our help.”
The need for continued protection of wolves in the Pacific Northwest is best exemplified by the fact that the Lookout Pack – the first breeding pack to be confirmed in Washington in over 70 years – was decimated by poaching. The poachers were fortunately caught and prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act. Additional incidents at this stage could seriously jeopardize the prospects for wolf recovery in the Cascades.
“The return of wolves to the West is one of our generation’s greatest conservation success stories,” said Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild, “The journey of OR-7 captured imaginations around the world and wouldn’t have been possible with the critical protections of the Endangered Species Act. If recovery is to take root here, it’s important for wolves not to be prematurely stripped of those basic protections.”
Last winter, California also saw its first wolf in more than eighty years when the wolf known as OR-7 migrated from Oregon. Scientists have identified extensive habitat for wolves in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, Northern California, and the Sierra Nevada.
“Wolves have made an incredible comeback in the Rockies, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on wolf recovery in the West,” said Pamela Flick, California program coordinator with Defenders of Wildlife. “Californians deserve the chance to see wolves returned to their former habitat in our state too, and maintaining federal protections across the Pacific Northwest is the best way to make sure that happens.”
Since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho research has shown that by forcing elk to move more, wolves have allowed streamside vegetation to recover benefitting songbirds and beavers. Studies also show that wolves provide benefits to scavenging animals such as weasels, eagles, wolverines and bears, and help increase numbers of foxes and pronghorns by controlling coyotes, which wolves regard as competitors. Thousands of visitors to the Park have been thrilled to see wolves in their natural habitat.
“The gray wolf is the quintessential keystone animal that has been part of shaping North American landscape for hundreds of thousands of years,” said Josh Laughlin, campaign director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Research shows that wolves benefit a plethora of other wildlife species and are a significant tourist draw for states where they have recovered.”
Gray wolves are currently listed under the Endangered species Act throughout the lower 48, outside of the two Northern Rocky Mountains and western Great Lakes populations. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is now proposing to remove protections for the lower 48 population, but has stated that they will consider protection for any existing wolf populations, including potentially the Pacific Northwest and northeastern United States. The results of the status review and reclassification finding are expected to be finalized and announced in early 2013.
The Lookout and Teanaway Packs are distinct from other U.S. wolves. They are related to coastal wolves of British Columbia which have unique ecological, morphological, behavioral, and genetic characteristics. Wolves in the Cascades are observed to be slightly smaller and have brownish coats similar to their coastal ancestors, and some are known to eat salmon.
Groups signing on to the letter include: Oregon Wild, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Humane Society of the United States, Conservation Northwest, Endangered Species Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Cascadia Wildlands, National Wolfwatcher Coalition, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, California Wolf Center, Western Wildlife Conservancy, Wolf Recovery Foundation, Wolf Haven International, Big Wildlife, Environmental Protection Information Center, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, National Parks Conservation Association, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Predator Defense, Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance