In a few generations more, there will probably be no room at all allowed for animals on the earth..there will also have passed away the last smile of the world’s youth. – Maria Louise Ramé
UNITED STATES — Despite the low numbers of grizzly bears and grey wolves, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may take these iconic animals off the Endangered Species List due to pressure from hunters and ranchers. Grey wolves and grizzly bears have recovered under the Endangered Species Act, but the populations are still low. With only 1,700 wolves and 600 grizzlies in the Rocky Mountains, scientists (as opposed to politicians) warn that may not even be a viabile breeding population. The removal of this protection would allow these symbols of America to be hunted back to the brink of extinction once again. Who is the Fish and Wildlife Service really serving? We are outraged; if you are too, click the button below to take action. — Global Animal
The Obama administration is seeking to lift Endangered Species Act protections from two of the most iconic symbols of the American west, the grey wolf and grizzly bear, in moves likely to spark fierce resistance from environmentalists.
The planned change emerged in an interview yesterday with two top-ranking officials from the Interior Department, whose agency, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, oversees federal safeguards for most endangered species.
Both the grizzly and grey wolf occupy the figurative pinnacle of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, encompassing parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Previous efforts to remove them from the US endangered species list have met with staunch opposition in court from wildlife conservation groups.
Environmentalists have raised concerns that while both species have made a comeback under protection as endangered species, their recovery could falter if they were de-listed, a move that would likely open the animals to public hunting.
Sportsmen and ranchers, who make up a powerful constituency in western states, have strongly advocated de-listing wolves and grizzlies, arguing the predators are diminishing herds of big-game animals like elk and are preying on livestock.
Wolves and grizzlies had been hunted, trapped and poisoned to near extinction in the lower 48 states before being added to the endangered species list. Federal protection of wolves has been especially controversial since they were reintroduced to the wild in the Rockies in the mid-90s despite strong objections from ranchers.
Under pressure from livestock interests and state wildlife managers, the federal government in April 2009 removed the wolf from the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho while keeping protections in Wyoming. But a federal judge in August 2010 ordered full listing restored, saying the wolves’ entire range in the Rockies must be treated as a whole, and that protections cannot be left intact in Wyoming while they were lifted in other states.
Dan Strickland, assistant interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, said that the Obama administration would seek congressional action to lift the protection if necessary.
De-listing means states would assume management of the estimated 1,700 wolves in the northern Rockies – about 1,000 more than the federal recovery goal for the species.
In the same interview, Fish and Wildlife Service deputy director, Dan Ashe, said his agency will also “de-list” the grizzly in the Yellowstone region.
“We’re moving forward with the states,” he added, predicting final action within 18 months.
Yellowstone area grizzlies were de-listed in 2007, and states promptly planned hunting seasons. But they were re-listed last year after environmentalists gained a legal victory, arguing that the federal government had failed to take into account such factors as climate change. They also questioned whether 500 animals was a viable population.
But environmentalists say getting Congress to bypass normal procedures would undermine the Endangered Species Act, a cornerstone of American conservation law.
“Wildlife management decisions are supposed to be made based on science, not politics,” said Mike Leahy, Rocky Mountain regional director of a private group, Defenders of Wildlife. “It means every time a controversial critter comes up under the Endangered Species Act, Congress could whittle away protections needed to conserve the species.”
Related article: Why Wolves Matter: The Green World Theory