The US Fish and Wildlife Service has said it is re-examining whether gray wolves are on the endangered species list.
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- The US Fish and Wildlife Service said on Wednesday it was re-examining whether gray wolves were on the endangered species list
- The announcement comes in response to two petitions calling on the federal agency to restore protections for the animal, at a minimum, in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and parts of Washington and Utah.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service said it found that the petitioners presented “substantial information that a potential increase in human-caused mortality could pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western United States.”
- The groups behind the petitions claim that states have adopted “anti-wolf” policies that have “real potential” to destroy wolf populations.
Wednesday’s announcement comes in response to two petitions, filed earlier this year by dozens of organizations, asking the federal agency to restore protections for the animal, at a minimum, in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, and parts of Washington and Utah – and potentially even reaching California, Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said it found that the petitioners presented “substantial information that a potential increase in human-caused mortality could pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western United States.”
The agency said it was launching a “90-day finding” – a formal assessment of the allegations made in the petitions. The next steps would be an in-depth review and rule-making process throughout the year, which would include public comment.
The announcement came the same day that dozens of Native American groups sent a letter to Home Secretary Deb Haaland asking her to act quickly on their emergency petition to put the wolf back on the government species list. endangered or threatened. They also asked Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico and the first Native American to run a Cabinet agency, to urgently re-enroll the wolf for 240 days, providing immediate protection.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, however, refused to restore immediate protections.
The groups say states have adopted “anti-wolf” policies that show “real potential” to destroy wolf populations.
The letter notes that wolves play a key role in the cultures of many Indian tribes and accuses the federal government of not listening to their concerns about the wolf being removed from the endangered species list in January.
“If the Trump or Biden administrations had consulted with tribal nations, as required by treaty and trust responsibilities, they would have heard that as a sacred creature, the wolf is an integral part of the earthly identity that shapes our communities, our beliefs, our customs and traditions, ”the letter reads. “The earth, and all that it contains, is our temple. “
Wolves were exterminated across much of the United States in the 1930s as part of government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns. They were reintroduced from Canada to the Northern Rockies in the 1990s and have spread over the past two decades in parts of Oregon, Washington and California.
Wolves in much of the contiguous United States were deprived of federal endangered species law protections in the final days of the Trump administration. In August, the Biden administration appeared to stick with that decision when it asked a federal judge in California to dismiss a lawsuit brought by conservationists seeking to restore protections.
The states took over the management of wolves from the federal government in the Northern Rockies for the past decade and the rest of the lower 48 states in January.
After protections were lifted there, Wisconsin moved quickly to reduce its wolf count. A pro-hunting group with close ties to conservative Republicans has won a court order allowing hunters – some using dogs – to kill 218 wolves in the state in four days.
Among the measures approved this year in Idaho, which has about 1,500 wolves, was a law that provided money for the state to hire private contractors to kill the animals. The law also allows hunters to use night vision equipment, hunt wolves on snowmobiles or ATVs, and shoot them down from helicopters. It authorizes wolf trapping all year round on private property.
In Montana, state wildlife authorities last month approved a capture quota of 450 wolves, or about 40 percent of the population. Previously prohibited killing methods can now be used, including snaring, baiting, and night wolf hunting. Trapping seasons have been lengthened and each hunter or trapper can now take up to 10 animals.
Even before the changes, Montana wildlife officials expected the state’s wolf numbers to drop from about 1,150 animals to 950 or less, following a particularly successful hunting season in the state. over the past year.
In a statement to Spectrum News, the Western Watersheds Project, which wrote one of the two petitions, said it was “satisfied” that the Fish and Wildlife Service is reconsidering restoring protections for gray wolves, but is disappointed that the The agency is not taking immediate action.
“Aggressive anti-wolf laws and regulations in the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming place wolves at risk of extinction in those states, and wolf populations remain low (or absent) in other western states. within their historic range, ”the group said. “Wolves deserve immediate protection today to prevent further human depredation.
“While it is disappointing that the Service decided not to implement the protections of the Endangered Species Act immediately on an emergency basis, as requested in a previous emergency listing petition , we expect that a thorough review of the best available science will definitively show that the gray wolf should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte tweeted wednesday that the federal government should back down on wolves.
“Montana has been effectively managing our wolf population for years, and we don’t need Washington to come and question our scientific approach,” he said.