Jan. 27–The biggest supporters of protecting wolves in the U.S. came out in support of a reduced protection level for the big canines to make federal management more flexible.
The 20 groups — including the Humane Society of the U.S. and several Minnesota wolf groups — petitioned the federal government today to re-list wolves as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
Threatened status would give wolves broad protections but is a lesser level than full-blown endangered.
Threatened status also would allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue exemptions to federal trappers and others to kill some wolves near where livestock and pets have been killed.
Only in Minnesota have wolves had threatened status in the past.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman today said the agency is reviewing the petition and will respond within the mandated timeline.
Ironically it was the Humane Society that last month won a court order restoring Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across the Great Lakes and in Wyoming. A judge ruled in December that the animals in those areas return to the level of federal protection first set in the 1970s — endangered in most areas and threatened in Minnesota.
Several hunting and livestock groups have encouraged the federal agency to appeal the decision. So far, agency officials have not decided how to move ahead. The agency could appeal or could start over with an entirely new plan to delist wolves that might pass the court’s muster.
Agency officials say they still believe their 2012 decision to delist wolves in the Great Lakes, and hand management back to states and tribes, was biologically sound and backed by the best science available.
“Our lawyers are considering options about an appeal at this time. Ultimately, that decision will be made in consultation with our U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service counterparts in Washington D.C., the Office of the Solicitor, and the Department of Justice in the coming months,” the agency said in a statement.
Meanwhile several members of Congress have threatened to push legislation ordering the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to de-list the wolves based on their earlier decision on the animals from 2012 that they had fully recovered in the Great Lakes and that states could take over management. That legislation, which has not yet been formally introduced in Congress, would override the court order if signed into law.
The pro-wolf groups are attempting to get ahead of the curve if the federal agency decides to form a new plan for wolves. While the groups say state hunting and trapping have killed too many wolves, they say allowing some federal trapping of problem wolves may help defuse tensions in the future.
Federal threatened status would not allow any sport hunting or trapping.
“Several states have badly failed in their management of wolves, and their brand of reckless trapping, trophy hunting, and even hound hunting just has not been supported by the courts or by the American people,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society of the U.S., in a prepared statement. “We do, however, understand the fears that some ranchers have about wolves, and we believe that maintaining federal protections while allowing more active management of human-wolf conflicts achieves the right balance for all key stakeholders and is consistent with the law.”
The groups have asked that wolves be listed as threatened in all of the contiguous U.S. to “continue federal oversight and funding of wolf recovery efforts and encourage development of a national recovery plan for the species,” including western states not included in the recent court decision.
Today’s petition “proposes an alternative path to finalizing wolf recovery based on the best available science, rather than politics and fear, and would help to find a balanced middle ground on a controversial issue that has been battled out in the courts. …”