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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Scores of Scientists Stand Up for Wolves

With our ballot referendum, educational, and litigation successes, we’ve blocked some massive killing of wolves in the Great Lakes states and in Wyoming, sparing hundreds of wolves from trapping, hounding, and trophy killing. But a faction in Congress is trying to nullify these efforts by seeking to remove federal protections for wolves. Hostile lawmakers are now attempting to include an anti-wolf policy rider into a massive end-of-year spending bill. We’ve got to stop it.

iStock Photo

It was no surprise when a handful of old-school biologists and former government types sent a letter recently advocating for the delisting of wolves and the resumption of trophy hunting and trapping. But it was notable that in response, a much larger group of 70 independent scientists and scholars this week called upon the Obama administration and Congress to retain critical federal protections under the ESA for gray wolves. A few weeks ago, 25 U.S. Senators and 92 U.S. Representatives also wrote to the Obama administration and urged it to shelve any plans for delisting specific species, such as the gray wolf, or gutting the ESA in a the final spending package.

The scientists who favor continued federal protection for wolves—including a number of internationally renowned wildlife biologists—invoked a compelling scientific case for their position. Their letter also addresses public attitudes, citing recent polling showing that an overwhelming 90 percent of American voters support the ESA. The public also maintains a positive attitude toward wolves, and support for them has been increasing over the past few decades. Our winning ballot measures in Michigan last year demonstrated that even in a wolf range state, there is enormous support for protecting wolves.

Once wolves lose federal protections, they are subject to reckless and overreaching state management plans, including wolf hunts utilizing unsporting and barbaric methods, such as steel-jawed leghold traps, cable snares, baiting, and hound hunting. State management hasn’t worked and has been disastrous for wolves, and that’s why federal oversight is still needed. The authors of the second letter draw attention to several scientifically questionable components of state management, including the sustainability and science behind legal wolf hunting plans and accuracy and bias in wolf population counts.

Finally, the scientists explain why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been unsuccessful in each of its attempts to delist wolves, noting that the biological status and management of wolves do not meet standards required by the ESA for delisting. The best available science shows that wolf populations have not recovered, as explained in numerous peer-review articles and supported by published evidence, repeated judicial opinion, and congressional intent.

When a species is delisted, there is an administrative process for the public and wildlife biologists to weigh in, and when the science doesn’t justify delisting—as it hasn’t in the case of wolves—then judicial review can overturn the decision. It’s not an appropriate role for Congress to intervene while those administrative rulemaking and judicial review processes are playing out.

Most Americans value and appreciate wolves, and wolf-watching tourism drives tens of millions of dollars annually into local economies. We must do everything we can to protect these creatures and the ecosystems that rely on them, and not allow politicians to force delisting by legislative fiat on behalf of special interest groups.

Right now, members of Congress are having closed-door negotiations about which policy riders to include in the final omnibus spending package. Please let your legislators know that you oppose riders delisting wolves (or any other species) in the spending bill (you can find their contact information here). Please also let President Obama know that you would also like him to reject these harmful riders by clicking here to send him a tweet.

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