Organizations Call for Gray Wolf Restoration in Western Washington State

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(10/30/2002) - WASHINGTON - Defenders of Wildlife and the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance (NWEA) called on the federal government today to restore gray wolves to the forests of western Washington, saying “it’s time to hear the call of the wild again” in this vast stretch of their historical range.

The organizations released a “distinct population segment” petition under the Endangered Species Act, which could require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore and protect gray wolves in their remaining natural habitat in the region.

“Gray wolves have an important role to play in the ecological health and character of the Pacific Northwest, and the federal government should start getting serious about restoring the species here,” Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen said. “It’s time to hear the call of the wild again in these beautiful forests.”

The petition urges the Fish and Wildlife Service to establish what’s known in the Endangered Species Act as a Distinct Population Segment for gray wolves in Washington State.

“The wolf and the Pacific Northwest co-evolved. It is as much a thread in the fabric of our ecosystems as the salmon and the grizzly. We must seek to recover wolves wherever suitable habitat exists for the sake of the species and these ecosystems”, said Joe Scott, Conservation Director of the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance.

This designation would require the agency to develop and implement a plan for restoration and protection of gray wolves in suitable habitat in 9 million acres of federally managed lands -- including 4 million acres of designated wilderness areas.

The gray wolf is currently listed as “endangered” in all lower 48 states except Minnesota, where it is listed as “threatened.” The species has been successfully reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and re-established in the Northern Rockies. The Mexican wolf has been reintroduced in the area of the U.S.-Mexico border. In November 2000, Defenders of Wildlife petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to restore the gray wolf to the Southern Rockies, and petitioned in April 2001 for restoration in California. These petitions are still pending. The gray wolf has been returned to less than 4 percent of its historical range in the lower 48 states.

The Endangered Species Act requires the federal government to work for the recovery of an endangered species in suitable habitats throughout its historic range, where appropriate habitat remains. Habitat surveys have confirmed that the Blue Mountains of eastern Washington, the Cascades Mountains, and the Olympic Peninsula are ideal places for wolves, with large numbers of wild prey species and substantial expanses of remote public land.

“Wolves belong in this region,” said Nancy Weiss, western director of species conservation for Defenders of Wildlife. “There was a time when the federal government waged war on the wolf, and pushed it to the brink of extinction in the lower-48 states. That time is over. Now the federal government must live up to its obligation under the Endangered Species Act and the wishes of the vast majority of Americans and restore the wolf to this key part of its former habitat.”

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Defenders of Wildlife is a leading non-profit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat. With more than 440,000 members and supporters Defenders of Wildlife is an effective leader on endangered species issues. To stay current on hot topics in wildlife conservation, please visit www.defenders.org  

Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, a Pacific Northwest regional conservation group with 12,000 members, protects and restores wildlands and wildlife in the Pacific Northwest and supports such efforts in British Columbia. NWEA bridges science and advocacy, working with activists, policy makers and the general public to conserve our natural heritage. We envision a Northwest that includes natural areas healthy, wild and large enough to sustain viable populations of all native species, including large carnivores such as grizzly bears and wolves. www.ecosystem.org

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Contact(s):

Brad DeVries, (202) 772-0237

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