Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for wolves across nearly the entire lower 48 states. The gray wolf, one of North America’s most iconic native predators, once thrived throughout the U.S. But after centuries of trapping, hunting and poisoning, the wolf population has been devastated. By the 1980s, only a few small pockets of survivors remained in the continental U.S.
“This proposal sets an unfortunate low bar for endangered species recovery in the United States,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife. “Wolves currently inhabit only a fraction of their former range, and this proposal will cut off wolf recovery from vast areas of suitable habitat out west where the species can still thrive.”
“Frankly, it’s disappointing that the federal government is ready to throw in the towel when wolves are still missing from key states like Colorado, California and Utah. These states have excellent habitat for wolves and can benefit both economically and ecologically from the return of wolves,” said Clark.
The proposed rule removes federal ESA protections for all gray wolves in the lower48 states (except for a small population of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, where only about 75 wild wolves remain) and would be disastrous for the recovery of the species. The proposal largely relies on scientifically disputed classifications of wolf subspecies, and fails to account for the fact that wolves have yet to recover in many parts of the country, even where excellent wolf habitat still exists.