The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) expressed support for the proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to remove the gray wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species. The livestock associations added, however, that Mexican wolves in the Southwest should also be delisted. In their announcement, FWS stated the Mexican wolf will remain on the list of endangered species.
The wolf, placed on the list of endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) over three decades ago, has far surpassed FWS recovery goals across the country, according to NCBA President and Wyoming rancher, Scott George. He added that, unlike most other species listed under the ESA, wolves pose a serious threat to wildlife, humans and private property, especially livestock.
“It’s time to turn management over to the states,” said George. “Wolf depredation of livestock is increasing to untenable levels in areas where wolves are still protected. We were given relief in Wyoming when it was finally delisted here. It’s only fair to allow all producers across the country that same relief.”
According to FWS, the proposal to delist the gray wolf comes after a “comprehensive review confirmed its successful recovery following management actions undertaken by federal, state and local partners.” However, FWS added that it intends to maintain protection status and expand recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf in the Southwest.
PLC President Brice Lee, a rancher from Colorado, said that wolves in the Southwest have also recovered and do not warrant federal protection.
“The wolf population in Arizona and New Mexico has almost doubled in the last three years, thanks to the work of the state fish and game departments,” Lee said. “We feel that at a certain point, it’s possible to over-study and over-capture these animals. It’s time to stop with these government studies and allow them be truly wild, while the state departments continue their successful management.”
Lee stated that the FWS does not have the resources to continue managing the wolf as endangered, let alone compensate ranchers for their losses. Studies have shown, he said, that for every confirmed kill of livestock there are seven to eight that go unconfirmed.
“We appreciate FWS’ recognition that the gray wolf is recovered,” George stated. “But it’s also time to end the unwarranted listing of Mexican wolf. Wolf depredation threatens ranchers’ livelihoods and rural communities, as well as the economies relying on a profitable agricultural industry.”