In a letter dated March 4, 2013, fifty-two members of Congress directed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Director Dan Ashe to commit to the total REWILDING of the United States by retaining endangered species classification for wolves. The letter begins with a lie, and ends with more lies. Here’s the first whopper:
“The reintroduction of wolves into the northern Rocky Mountains and their resurgence in the westem Great Lakes region have been important gains for a species once teetering on the brink of extinction, and the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service should be commended for its prominent role in these achievements.”
This absurd statement flies in the face of established science. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, (IUCN), which is the largest and most recognized conservation organization in the world, the gray wolf “does not meet, or nearly meet, any of the criteria for the threatened categories. Therefore, it is assessed as Least Concern.”
[Source: IUCN – Wolf Specialist Group]
The IUCN lists gray wolves as a species of “least concern” based on global population estimates and the actual extent of their current range. Gray wolves have never been endangered and are more numerous now than any other large terrestrial predator on earth. Their current range is circumpolar and rapidly expanding. Current population estimates range from 250,000 to well over one million animals.
The USFWS lists gray wolves as “endangered” on a region by region basis using their historic range as the ultimate measuring rod, not on a census of the actual overall population across the entirety of their current range. This is why the USFWS currently lists gray wolves as an “endangered species” in the following states:
All of AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT and WV; those portions of AZ, NM, and TX not included in an experimental population as set forth below; and portions of IA, IN, IL, ND, OH, OR, SD, UT, and WA as follows: (1) Southern IA, (that portion south of the centerline of Highway 80); (2) Most of IN (that portion south of the centerline of Highway 80); (3) Most of IL (that portion south of the centerline of Highway 80); (4) Western ND (that portion south and west of the Missouri River upstream to Lake Sakakawea and west of the centerline of Highway 83 from Lake Sakakawea to the Canadian border); (5) Most of OH (that portion south of the centerline of Highway 80 and east of the Maumee River at Toledo); (6) Western OR (that portion of OR west of the centerline of Highway 395 and Highway 78 north of Burns Junction and that portion of OR west of the centerline of Highway 95 south of Burns Junction); (7) Western SD (that portion south and west of the Missouri River); (8) Most of Utah (that portion of UT south and west of the centerline of Highway 84 and that portion of UT south of Highway 80 from Echo to the UT / WY Stateline); and (9) Western WA (that portion of WA west of the centerline of Highway 97 and Highway 17 north of Mesa and that portion of WA west of the centerline of Highway 395 south of Mesa).
The USFWS has been removing wolves from their endangered species list on a regional basis determined by arbitrary recovery goals for a particular area. Population estimates of “breeding pairs” known to be inhabiting either side of lines drawn on maps determine whether the species receives special protections or not. Scientifically, wolves should be evaluated based on estimates of the total population and/or consideration of the viability and overall health of the species. But in the United States wolves are considered endangered, not because they really are endangered, but because they have not yet reclaimed all of their historic territory.
Here’s an example of how this works:
According to the USFWS, here in Washington State gray wolves are classified as endangered on the west side of the centerline of Hwy 395 south of Mesa and west of the centerline of Hwy 97 going north, but they are NOT classified as endangered east of the centerline of Hwy 97 and Hwy 17 north of Mesa. You got that? A line painted on a highway determines the status of the species as far as the Federal government is concerned. However, like any other state, the state of Washington has its own criteria for listing the species.
According to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, (WDFW), gray wolves remain under full protection on either side of the centerlines of Hwy 395 or Hwy 97 regardless of whether one is north or south of the town of Mesa and regardless of how the USFWS or the IUCN classifies the species. Wolves remain on the Washington State “endangered species list” despite the fact that they have already overpopulated half of the state. I hope this information clarifies the issue for the average joe who is simply trying to make heads or tails of the wolf controversy. (To read the WDFW Wolf management plan, click here).
The bottom line is that the gray wolf is not an endangered species and never has been. Regional “listings” support wolf re-colonization of their former habitat. Only the IUCN correctly classifies the species according to the overall health of the entire population. To their credit, the IUCN recognizes that gray wolves have never even come close to meeting any of the criteria for the threatened or endangered categories.
The green lobby wants gray wolf re-colonization to proceed rapidly throughout the United States because wolves are viewed as tranformational change agents. Coalitions of greens have filed multiple lawsuits seeking to force the USFWS to re-classify wolves as endangered even in states where they are already extremely overpopulated such as Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, and Wyoming. These regions are considered essential “seed beds” for wolves. Wolves have, in fact, reproduced so rapidly in these areas that they have decimated local game populations, attacked livestock and pets, and are rapidly pushing out into neighboring states. Nobody seems to notice that even though the “seed” states have enacted tough wolf management in the form or liberal hunting and trapping seasons, these states are still experiencing problems with growing wolf populations.
The letter from Congress concludes with still more whoppers:
“While there is much to be proud of, there remains considerable progress to be made towards wolf recovery in the lower 48 states…we believe that Federal protection continues to be necessary to ensure that wolf recovery is allowed to proceed in additional parts of the country.”
“Wolf recovery in the lower 48 states is a wildlife success story in the making.”
Success story? Tell that to those who have documented the precipitous declines in our ungulate populations. Tell that to livestock owners who are facing mounting losses due to wolf depredation. Tell that to pet owners who have lost animals to wolves. According to this cadre of Congressional nitwits, wolves are the best thing since sliced bread:
“…all areas [of the United States] would benefit from continued endangered species act protections [for wolves].“
Despite the negative repercussions to the economy and devastating impacts on wildlife, the green lobby and their Congressional minions continue to insist that wolves recolonize all of America. The greens will not be satisfied until wolves are a continual presence and, as Meriwether Lewis noted in 1804-5, accompany herds of elk and buffalo on the open plains in “vast assemblages”.
To read the entire Congressional letter sent to the USFWS, click here.