Back in June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of threatened and endangered species throughout most of the lower 48 U.S. states–making an exception only for Mexican wolf subspecies (C.l. baileyi). On Tuesday, the Public Lands Council, NCBA and many of our affiliates submitted comments on the FWS’s proposed rule.
Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), to be classified as endangered, the species must be in danger of extinction throughout all or at the very least a significant portion of the populations range. For the gray wolf, that’s not the case. The gray wolf has made a successful recovery since being listed under the ESA over three decades ago, occupying an extensive range in more than 40 countries. In many of these areas, specifically across Alaska, Canada and the Pacific Northwest, the wolf faces very few threats. As of now, the gray wolf is listed using the Canadian border to define its natural habitat, regardless of its immense and extensive population north of the border.
Consequently, as the service has recognized in the proposed rule, the group of animals listed in 1978 “does not represent a valid ‘species’ under the Act.” Under these circumstances, it would be unlawful for the service to allow the current gray wolf listing to remain effective, further validating the decision to delist the wolf. Additionally, the service’s comprehensive review found that the current listing for gray wolf, which was developed 35 years ago, erroneously included large geographical areas outside the species’ historical range. Furthermore, the review found that the current gray wolf listing does not reasonably represent the range of the only remaining population of wolves in the lower 48 states.
Additionally, there is no basis on which to conclude that Pacific Northwest gray wolf population is eligible to be classified as endangered because this group of animals is not a distinct population segment, it is not a “species” within the meaning of the ESA and cannot be listed.
The proposed rule also deals with a subspecies, the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) which had a historic range that included much of Mexico and a portion of the southwestern United States (southern and central Arizona and New Mexico and southwestern Texas).
The service suggests shifting resources to maintain protection and expand recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf subspecies in the Southwest, where, based on the best available science, it remains endangered. In 1998, the first wolf was released into the wild in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. For the past 15 years the population has ranged from 40-75 wolves. The goal set in the 1982 Recovery Plan was 100 wolves in the Blue Range Recovery Area. The recovery program put in place by the FWS and cooperating agencies for the Mexican wolf has operated under section 10j of the ESA. This gave the Mexican wolf in the southwest the legal status of “experimental population,” which was critical to allow agency and state personnel to handle wolves, treat problem wolves, and use lethal removal. Today wolves in Arizona and New Mexico are still considered an “experimental population” and are governed by the 10j despite many legal challenges by radical special interest groups. While the latest proposed rule would set a plan in motion similar to what industry has faced with the gray wolf, our comments reiterate the need for the Mexican wolf to remain an experimental population. This would ensure states continue to have a say in how FWS manages the Mexican wolf.
Click here to view the comments.
Source: Dustin Van Liew Executive Director, Public Lands Council Director, Federal Lands, NCBA