Today, April 15, 2011 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to remove gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes region from protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The announcement to delist gray wolves is consistent with the petitions of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (USSAF) and others that were filed last year requesting that the Service remove these animals from the ESA.
In its announcement, the Service points out that “wolf populations have met recovery goals and no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.” Additionally, the Service noted that wolf management plans in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin were adequate to manage gray wolf populations if removed from ESA protection.
The proposed rule to delist gray wolves should be officially published within the next few weeks. The proposed delisting rule will be subject to public review and comment. That process usually takes another eight to 12 months for the Service to make a delisting rule final and actually remove a species from the list of endangered or threatened species.
However the Service’s announcement did not come without concerns. It additionally announced that it is now recognizing another species of wolves – eastern wolves – and that it is moving forward to review their status.
“We are pleased with the Service’s announcement recognizing that gray wolves are fully recovered in the Western Great Lakes region and should be returned to state management,” said Rob Sexton, USSAF vice president for government affairs. “On the other hand, we have serious concerns over the Service’s announcement that it is now recognizing a second species of wolves within the region. Doing so could potentially cause problems in returning recovered gray wolves to state management.”
GW: The fact that another wolf species is being recognized by the USFWS in the Western Great Lakes region, has the potential to become the Baby Ruth in the punch bowl! Similarly appearing wolves become a management issue, if hunters are not able to distinguish protected species – if, in fact, the newly identified species requires protection under the ESA.
Predictably, there will be those groups that seize the opportunity to push their no-hunting-anything agenda by mixing well-orchestrated emotion into the mix.
The problem is there are not enough facts presented at this juncture of the evolution of modern wolf management to comprehend the ramifications on the horizon.