The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed taking the gray wolf off the federal Endangered Species List, saying it is no longer in danger of extinction, and replacing it with the Mexican wolf, a species under siege.
The move, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in a teleconference with reporters, allows the agency to focus on the much more endangered Mexican wolf. (Related: Shooting of Mexican Gray Wolf Being Investigated by Federal Government)
Gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and the western Great Lakes are already out from under federal protection. Today’s announcement lifts the federal restrictions from all lower 48 states. The wolves will still be managed, Ashe said, but the states will do it. Tribes are also important in these efforts, he said. (Related: Proposed Settlement Would De-List Idaho, Montana Gray Wolves)
Working with state partners in Arizona and New Mexico, “our goal is to reinvigorate our Mexican wolf recovery program,” Ashe said. “No one is suggesting” that gray wolves require less protection, but the question is whether they still require federal protection, he added.
Tribal input will be key during both the gray wolf’s transition away from federal management and the Mexican wolf’s continued regeneration, Ashe said.
“We have worked historically through the reintroduction and recovery effort with tribes, and our principal partner is the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho,” he said. “In fact, during key juncture in the recovery effort, when the State of Idaho was not participating—government and political leaders had prohibited the state fish and game agency from participating—the Nez Perce Tribe played a critical role with us and was really a vital partner in the early stages.” More....