The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, is proposing to remove gray wolves from protection under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the lower 48 states.
To support farmers and ranchers, the federal government and state governments paid bounties for confirmed wolf kills and hired hunters to kill , nearly wiping our the gray wolf in the contiguous United States during the late 19th century and early 20th century. With the advent of new environmental sensibilities and the enactment of the ESA, tThrough the collaborative efforts of the federal and state governments, native tribes, conservation organizations, and private landowners, the wolf has recovered and is no longer endangered, says the March 14 press release announcing the FWS decision.
With more than 6,000 wolves across the gray wolf’s current range, the species’ recovery is one of the greatest animal comeback stories in U.S. conservation history, according to FWS.
States, Tribes to Control
With ESA protection no longer warranted, FWS announced its proposal to return management of the wolves to states and tribes with reservations containing the gray wolf populations.
“The facts are clear and indisputable—the gray wolf no longer meets the definition of a threatened or endangered species,” said David Bernhardt, U.S. Secretary of the Interior. “Today the wolf is thriving on its vast range, and it is reasonable to conclude it will continue to do so in the future.
“Today’s action puts us one step closer to transitioning the extraordinary effort that we have invested in gray wolf recovery to other species that actually need the protections of the Endangered Species Act, leaving the states to carry on the legacy of wolf conservation,” Bernhardt said.
Says Delisting Is Long Overdue
The proposed gray wolf delisting is in the best interest of wolves and other species, says Brian Seasholes, an independent scholar who researches endangered species.
“Conservation depends on spending finite dollars on species that truly merit protection, not species like gray wolves which have large and healthy populations,” Seasholes said. “Moreover, states have proven they have the ability to manage wolf populations, so there is no need for the federal government to take the lead.”
Opponents of wolf delisting are nothing more than lawsuit mills masquerading as environmental groups, seeking to use fabricated threats to the gray wolf to raise funds from gullible urban elites, says Seasholes.
“Endangered species conservation depends on public support, which is eroded by the unnecessary retention of the wolf on the endangered species list,” Seasholes said. “Most importantly, endangered species conservation depends on the buy-in of the working-class, rural Americans who live in wolf country, not the wealthy urban elites who support phony conservation groups seeking to keep the wolf listed as endangered.
“Secretary Bernhardt should be commended for standing up for common sense, sound science, and the best interests of wolf conservation,” Seasholes said.
The 60-day public comment period for FWS’s gray wolf proposal opened on March 15 and ends on May 14.
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.