Petition calls for reintroduction to all suitable habitat – a national recovery plan.
A petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity asks that wolves be returned to suitable habitat in New England, California, the desert West and the Great Plains.
The Introduction of the petition reads:
Gray wolves are one of the most adaptable mammals on Earth. They previously inhabited most of North America – excluding only portions of the driest deserts and today’s southeastern United States, which is the historic range of a separate species, the red wolf (Canis rufus). Wolves are incredibly important to the ecosystems they inhabit; studies of wolves in Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere demonstrate that the wolf is a keystone species that profoundly shapes ecosystems. Wolves limit elk herbivory of saplings in sensitive riparian areas and thereby aid beavers, songbirds and fish whose habitat is enhanced through growth of riparian trees (Ripple and Beschta 2003). Wolves have also been found to aid fox (vulpes ssp.) and pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) populations by controlling coyotes (Canis latrans), which are intolerant of foxes and disproportionately prey on pronghorn fawns (Berger and Gese 2007; Smith et al. 2003, Berger et al 2008). These results indicate that broader recovery of wolves would benefit many species and overall ecosystem integrity.
The Service’s 36-year recovery efforts for gray wolves to date have brought them back from the brink of extinction in certain regions of the U.S., including the Southwest, northern Rocky Mountains and the upper Midwest or Great Lakes region. These efforts, however, have failed to fully recover wolves in most of their historic range. Wolves are still absent from roughly 95 percent or more of their historic range in the U.S., including extensive areas of currently suitable habitat (Mladenoff and Sickley 1998, Carroll et al. 2006). This reflects the fact that the Service has never prepared a national recovery plan for wolves, but has instead developed region-specific recovery plans that have limited recovery to the northern Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes, and Southwest (Service 1978, 1982, and 1987, 1992).
Achieving full recovery of wolves in the U.S. represents our society’s ability to learn from and correct past policy mistakes that have persecuted wolves and caused ecological devastation. In the past, county, state and federal agencies – including the Service and its predecessor agencies – targeted wolves for extermination (Robinson, 2005). By fully recovering wolves now, the Service would finally fulfill a fundamental purpose of one of our nation’s foremost conservation laws, the Endangered Species Act, and chart a new course toward balance with the natural world.
Thus, with substantial gains toward wolf recovery made in certain regions, the time has come to recover wolves throughout all significant portions of their historic range. To accomplish this, the Center hereby formally petitions the Service to develop a national gray wolf recovery plan, excluding the Southwest, that ensures that wolves are recovered to ecosystems within their former range that still contain suitable habitat or can be restored to sustain them, including existing wolf recovery areas as well as the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, southern Rocky Mountains, California, and Great Plains regions.1 Within these regions, the Plan should establish recovery goals that provide for connected and resilient wolf populations that have sufficient regulatory protections to achieve and maintain long-term recovery. Downlisting might be appropriate when wolf populations have met these criteria in fewer than all of these regions and have achieved interim benchmarks in the remaining regions. Delisting could occur when wolves have fulfilled recovery criteria in all regions.
Petition seeks to have wolves howl across US.
By MATTHEW BROWN – Associated Press Writer