The Endangered Species Act Dances With Wolves Continues

The Endangered Species Act Dances With Wolves Continues

Wolves in Michigan
Wolves in Michigan One Step Closer to State Management
Wildlife Management Institute
Wildlife Management Institute

Gardners, PA –-( In an unprecedented and increasingly controversial move, the United States judicial branch has begun a new chapter in the on-going saga of species protection, reports the Wildlife Management Institute.

Late last month, Congress passed a rider attached to the hotly debated 2011 fiscal appropriations bill that effectively reinstated the 2009 wolf delisting rule for the Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf Distinct Population Segment (NR DPS). That marked the first time any species, plant or animal, has been removed from the endangered species list by legislative action.

The bipartisan compromise to include the rider came just hours before a more conservative settlement to delist wolves in Montana and Idaho only was rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Donald Malloy.

On May 5, the Department of the Interior (DOI) officially removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list throughout much the NR DPS. Wolf management now will fall under state authority in Montana, Idaho and portions of Utah, Washington and Oregon. Wyoming, although in the NR DPS, will remain under federal management authority until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Wyoming Fish and Game Department can “develop a wolf management plan that would allow wolves in Wyoming to be removed from the list in the future.”

According to documents released by the FWS, state and federal biologists will “monitor wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountain DPS and gather population data for at least five years under a post-delisting monitoring plan previously approved by the Service.”

“Like other iconic species such as the whooping crane, the brown pelican and the bald eagle, the recovery of the gray wolf is another success story of the Endangered Species Act,” said DOI Secretary Ken Salazar in a press release issued earlier this month. “The gray wolf’s biological recovery reflects years of work by scientists, wildlife managers, and our state, tribal and stakeholder partners to bring wolf populations back to healthy levels.”

Not surprisingly, environmental groups have responded to the delisting with a suite of lawsuits. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, WildEarth Guardians, and Friends of the Clearwaters filed a complaint in the Federal District Court of Montana, arguing violation of the separations of powers doctrine, since Congress’ action repealed a previous federal ruling without amending existing law. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a similar lawsuit citing the same separations of powers violation.

In the meantime, Montana and Idaho are fully preparing to open hunting seasons for wolves this coming fall. On May 12, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission proposed to create 14 wolf management units within the state and approved an overall harvest quota of 220 animals. The proposal is similar to the one used to develop the state’s planned wolf season in 2009. According to agency biologists, the proposed season and license structure would reduce the current wolf population of 566 wolves by 25 percent.

Wasting no time, Idaho began selling permits for its future wolf season the same day the FWS announced the delisting. Reportedly, Idaho, which supports just over 700 wolves, plans to sell the same number of licenses as Montana.

In conjunction with the NR DPS delisting, the FWS also announced its intention to delist “biologically recovered gray wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes.” This attempt to delist gray wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin currently is open for public comment until July 5. With nearly 3,000 wolves in Minnesota alone, biologists hold no reservation about the species’ future in the region. In addition to delisting the wolf, the proposed rule would seek to revise the species’ range by restricting it from 29 eastern states based on taxonomic evidence that suggests the region did not historically hold gray wolf populations. The rule also calls for a review of gray wolf numbers in the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest in order to determine potential listing status of the species in those areas. (mcd)

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