A press release today from Cascadia Wildlands and Center for Biological Diversity reports that 52 members of Congress have endorsed a letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service requesting that the Federal government continue to protect those wolves still under the umbrella of the Endangered Species Act.
Amaroq Weiss, West Coast Wolf Organizer for Center for Biological Diversity states, “It is our hope that the support shown for wolves by these 52 Representatives will encourage more Congressionals to come forward and stand up for science-based wolf recovery and the necessary protections to achieve that goal — and for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and this Administration to follow through to ensure wolves are restored to significant portions of their former range.”
Weiss, previously with the California Wolf Center, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Mexican Wolf Conservation Fund, has served as a vocal wolf advocate for years. She sounds hopeful in this statement about today’s news:
“With wolf recovery supporters nationwide – and worldwide – stunned at how wolf management by states, upon federal delisting, has turned into what by all appearances is a contest to reduce wolf numbers to the bare minimum to appease wolf recovery opponents, this letter to the USFWS from 52 Congressional Representatives demonstrates that there is a substantial body of U.S. lawmakers willing to go to bat for wolves, for the mandates of the Endangered Species Act to be met, and for wolf recovery decisions to be based on science rather than politics.”
With the number of wolves in Washington and Oregon increasing, it is only a matter of time before plans for “harvesting” them will be underway. With the support of Congress and the hard work of conservation-minded nonprofits, as well as ourselves, a better future can be envisioned for wolves in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.
This movement greatly impacts OR 7. Although currently the only known wild wolf in California, we can only hope that someday, he will be joined by others.
Details of the letter sent to the US Fish and Wildlife Service follows:
For Immediate Release, March 5, 2013
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
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.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Cascadia Wildlands is a Eugene, Oregon-based nonprofit conservation organization that educates, agitates and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.