Feds to propose abandoning gray wolf recovery across most of the United States

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Future of wolves in California, Pacific Northwest, Southern Rockies and Northeast would be in jeopardy

WASHINGTON (April 26, 2013) – The Los Angeles Times reports today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon propose stripping federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across all of the United States except for Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. This includes states like Utah and Colorado—key parts of the species former range with excellent suitable habitat where wolves have yet to return—and California, where  a wandering wolf recently set foot in the state for the first time in more than 75 years. Only the Mexican gray wolf, with about 75 individuals in Arizona and New Mexico, would retain the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife and a former Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

“The Obama administration is giving up on gray wolf recovery before the job is done. How can they declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ when gray wolves still face significant threats throughout their range? Wolves in the Pacific Northwest have only just begun to recover, and there are no wolf populations in Utah and Colorado. Places like the Olympic peninsula in Washington state and the Colorado Rockies would benefit both ecologically and economically from the return of wolves. We shouldn’t be closing the door on an incredible opportunity to revitalize some of America’s best remaining suitable wolf habitat by bringing back these important iconic animals.”

“A federal delisting of the gray wolf now would be premature. Endangered Species Act protections should remain in place until populations are fully recovered and all involved states have appropriate and responsible management plans in place. Gray wolves once ranged in a continuous population from Canada all the way down to Mexico, and we shouldn’t give up on this vision until they are restored. Forty years ago, our country made an enduring commitment to protect our imperiled native wildlife by passing the Endangered Species Act. To date, wolf recovery has been a shining example of that commitment in action. But now, politics has been allowed to trump sound science, and the future recovery of America’s wolves is being tossed up in the air once again. It is truly sad that the Obama administration has chosen this path and short-circuited what could and should have been a tremendous conservation success for our nation.”

Background:
Until now, gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states have been protected under the Endangered Species Act, with the exception of those states where the species had already been delisted (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota). The proposed delisting would eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the United States, while maintaining protection only for Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. Without federal protection in place as a safety net, states like Oregon and Washington could reduce or eliminate their nascent wolf populations altogether. And states such as Utah, Colorado, and California and across the entire Northeast may decide never to pursue wolf restoration, foreclosing the possibility of recovery in large parts of gray wolves’ historic range.

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Links:
Read the story in the LA Times
Learn more about what Defenders is doing to protect wolves nationwide
Get the latest wolf news on Defenders blog
Click here to download b-roll footage of wolves

Contact:
John Motsinger, jmotsinger@defenders.org, 202-772-0288

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.organd follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.

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