WASHINGTON— Seventy-eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter today urging Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to support downlisting gray wolves to a status of “threatened” instead of moving forward with a 2013 proposal to strip Endangered Species Act protections from most wolves in the lower 48 states. The support in the House for downlisting comes after a federal court’s recent decision to reject the Service’s proposal to end federal protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming.
“A nationwide threatened designation would allow for the development of a national recovery plan to return wolves to places like the southern Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada and Adirondacks,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Downlisting is a good alternative to an attempt by some in Congress to do an end-run around the Endangered Species Act to end protection for wolves in the Great Lakes region, a move that would hurt wolf recovery and undermine the integrity of the law for all listed species.”
The letter is led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, (D-Ariz.), the current ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and his predecessor on the committee, Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-Ore.). It points out that wolves have only been restored to 5 percent of their historic range, and that a “threatened” designation is now more appropriate. The letter notes that if wolves were listed as “threatened” nationwide it would allow for more flexible management to address wolf conflict in areas like the Great Lakes where wolves are present, but still allow for wolves to recover elsewhere where there is suitable habitat.
In January the Center, the Human Society of the United States and 20 other organizations filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify gray wolves as threatened. The petition explains that continued federal oversight and funding of wolf recovery efforts are needed in places like the western Great Lakes.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s previous piecemeal efforts to take away protections from gray wolves in the northern Rockies and western Great Lakes have been roundly criticized by scientists and repeatedly rejected by multiple federal courts. Courts have recognized that several states have recklessly reduced wolf numbers through unnecessary and cruel hunting and trapping programs.
In a separate letter sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service, an additional 14 conservation organizations representing 1.9 million people sent a letter in support of the petition filed by the Center and Humane Society.