Approximately 1 million Americans stated their opposition to the Obama administration’s proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves in a public comment period that closed today. This is the largest number of comments ever submitted on a federal decision involving endangered species and reflects broad dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s politically driven move to turn wolf management over to states across most of the lower 48.
“Americans overwhelmingly oppose removing protections for wolves, and for good reason. Wolves have recovered to just a fraction of their range and are severely threatened by state-sanctioned hunts intended to decimate them,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope the Obama administration will hear the pleas of hundreds of thousands of citizens and maintain these critically needed protections for wolves.”
The 750,000-plus comments, being delivered today to the Fish and Wildlife Service by multiple conservation groups, will bring the total number to well over 1 million.
There were once up to 2 million gray wolves living in North America, but the animals had been driven to near-extinction in the lower 48 states by the early 1900s. After passage of the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973 and protection of the wolf as endangered, federal recovery programs resulted in the rebound of wolf populations in limited parts of the country. Roughly 5,500 wolves now live in the continental United States — a fraction of the species’ historic numbers.
“The North American gray wolf’s recovery in certain areas of the United States is something to celebrate, but an abundance of evidence shows the work is not yet complete,” said International Fund for Animal Welfare president and CEO Azzedine Downes. “I applaud actions to help protect this critical species, and I strongly urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to go through with this proposal.”
The Obama administration’s proposal would remove existing protections for wolves everywhere except Arizona and New Mexico, where the Mexican wolf is struggling to survive with an estimated population of just 75 wolves. This proposal would abandon protections for wolves in places where wolf recovery is just in its infancy, such as Oregon and Washington, and would prevent wolves from recovering in other places where good wolf habitat has been identified, including northern California, the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast.
“Oregon wolves have taken the first tentative steps toward recovery in the last few years,” said Sean Stevens, executive director of Oregon Wild. “If the Obama administration takes away the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act, we pull the rug out from the fragile success story here on the West Coast and leave the fate of wolves in the hands of state agencies in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming who have proven incapable of balanced management.”
“The restoration of the gray wolf could be one of the great American wildlife conservation success stories if Secretary Jewell would just finish the job,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. More....