WASHINGTON — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a rule on Thursday that removes protection from all gray wolves in the lower 48 states except for a small population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The decision was welcomed by some and panned by others.
Critics say the Service made its decision despite the fact that they believe wolves are still “functionally extinct.”
The Service says it based its final determination “solely on the best scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated and the ongoing commitment and proven track record of states and tribes to continue managing for healthy wolf populations once delisted.”
“Today is a great victory for science and professional wildlife management. The gray wolf is one of the few actual success stories of the Endangered Species Act and has met every scientific criteria for delisting,” said Representative Paul Gosar. “Its delisting will cede control back to where it belongs, state and tribal governments. This is a clear win for the farmers, ranchers, and everyday citizens whose livelihoods have been threatened by growing unmanaged gray wolf populations. I applaud President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt for acting on sound science and taking this decisive action.”
“The delisting of the gray wolves is a pivotal action to allow proper management of the gray wolf and the species they share the landscape with by the individual States Wildlife Agencies,” said Arizona Deer Association President Don McDowell.
“Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law.”
“We should be putting much more effort into coexistence with wolves, working to ensure that populations in the lower 48 are thriving and are able to play out their ecological role balancing our natural systems, instead of stripping critical protections still needed for their full recovery,” said Bonnie Rice, Sierra Club senior campaign representative. “The science is clear that to protect our communities and prevent future pandemics, we need to be doing more to protect nature and wildlife, not less.”
In total, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000 wolves, greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations, according to the Service.