By David Scott
Closed national parks and monuments have become a symbol of the cost of the federal government shutdown.
Vacation plans are on hold, local economies are hurting, hundreds of thousands of Americans are temporarily out of work, and without the federal agencies in charge of monitoring pollution, many Americans have been left vulnerable. So, too, has our wildlife.
Without U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers on the beat, animals such as wolves are at risk -- both in the short term from immediate dangers, including poachers, and over the long term from delays in making important management decisions that affect their future recovery.
Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the gray wolf from the list of endangered and threatened species. The proposal would remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across nearly the entire lower 48 states, despite the fact that there are still few, if any, wolves in the vast majority of their former range.
It is a critical time for wolves. Yet public hearings scheduled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the proposed delisting have been delayed, to be rescheduled when the government re-opens.
This is also a critical time for Mexican gray wolves, the smallest, rarest, southernmost-occurring, and most genetically distinct subspecies of North American gray wolf. Although the Mexican wolf would be listed as endangered, the Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to keep and expand its “experimental nonessential status,” even though it remains one of the most endangered animals in North America. More....