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In the news: Feds plan to lift endangered species protection for gray wolves

Progressive Cattleman Editor Carrie Veselka Published on 25 March 2019

The Trump administration wants to remove gray wolves from the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), reigniting a legal and political debate that has lasted for decades.

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt made the announcement at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Denver on March 6. If the proposal passes, the authority to hold wolf hunting and trapping seasons will return to the state level.

The announcement has met with resistance and outrage from wildlife advocates. According to a report from The Associated Press (AP), Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now with the group Defenders of Wildlife, warned of an “all-out war on wolves” if the proposal goes forward. “We don’t have any confidence wolves will be managed like other wildlife,” she said.

Government officials maintain the wolf population has already recovered well beyond the original target populations when conservation efforts went into effect, and they no longer need the protection of the ESA.

“Recovery of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act is one of our nation’s great conservation successes, with the wolf joining other cherished species, such as the bald eagle, that have been brought back from the brink,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire told the AP in an emailed statement.

In a joint public statement, Jennifer Houston, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and Bob Skinner, president of the Public Lands Council, applauded the proposal. “The recovery of the gray wolf in the U.S. is a conservation success story. When the federal government collaborates with state wildlife officials and local land managers, it enhances our ability to protect the wildlife and ecosystems that we all cherish. This is exactly how the Endangered Species Act is supposed to work.”

Experts opposing the removal of wolves from ESA protection claim while wolf populations have increased, they cover only about 15 percent of the territory they once occupied. Agency officials contend the recovery of wolves everywhere is not required in order for them to no longer be at extinction levels.

Gray wolves received protection under the ESA in 1975 when the population hovered at 1,000 animals. Today, there are at least five times that number in the lower 48 states. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the highest wolf populations exist in the western Great Lakes and the northern Rockies. Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are currently the only states in the contiguous U.S. to allow wolf hunts after federal protections for that population were lifted in 2011.  end mark

Carrie Veselka
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