On July 6, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will publish a new proposed rule 10j in the Federal Register, that will make it every easy for state agencies and even private persons to kill wolves even without them being delisted. They won’t have to scientifically prove that wolves are depleting elk herds, essentially they can just everybody in the bar or cafe. They may also be able to shot wolves for simply standing near livestock and not have to provide any evidence that even that was so.
We seem to be in the process of seeing the executive branch of the government reverting to the days when wolves were to be eliminated, made extinct, not recovered. All this has been done by the Bush Administration, by-passing Congress, just like it has done on everything else.
I’ve got to wonder how an Administration with a 25% approval rating gets away with these things?
Here is a news release we issued today. There will be a lot more to follow.
For Immediate Release
July 5, 2007
Contact: Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife (208) 424-9385
Amaroq Weiss, Defenders of Wildlife (541) 552-9653
Ralph Maughan, Wolf Recovery Foundation (208) 417-0906
Chris Anderson, Wolf Education and Research Center (503) 913-2816
Steve Thomas, Sierra Club (307) 672-0425
New Rule Would Lower the Bar on Killing Endangered Wolves in Northern Rockies
BOISE, ID. – A new draft rule from the Bush Administration would once again diminish protections for wolves under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and threaten endangered wolf recovery efforts in the northern Rockies. The new rule would significantly broaden the circumstances under which wolves can be killed allowing the states to kill more than half of the approximately 1,300 wolves in the region today prior to their delisting. The new rule is ardently opposed by wildlife conservation groups in the region.
“The new rule allows state agencies to kill wolves for essentially political reasons,” said Suzanne Stone, northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “This is clearly a back door attempt by the Bush administration to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves by sidestepping the public delisting process.”
If the rule is finalized, wildlife managers would be permitted to kill wolves that they consider to be a “major cause” of elk and deer declines. Additionally, the new rule would allow private citizens to kill any wolf that they claim is “chasing, molesting or harassing” livestock, pack animals or even dogs used to hunt carnivores – terms that are poorly defined by the draft rule. This action would essentially remove all federal protections for wolves, despite the fact that they are still listed as an endangered species.
“We support a healthy balance between our endangered wolves and our ranching and hunting communities,” said Chris Anderson, executive director of the Idaho-based Wolf Education and Research Center. “However, ranchers are already allowed to shoot wolves that attack their livestock. And hunting concerns are unfounded; all three states have robust elk populations that even exceed state management objectives.”
In Idaho, elk populations are 20 percent above management objectives, and, according to Idaho Fish and Game’s 2006 progress report, “Overall elk populations statewide are near all time highs.” In Wyoming, the state wildlife agency declared that “elk are probably at an all-time high historically.” There are nearly 100,000 elk in Wyoming, which puts the population approximately 17 percent above Game and Fish Commission objectives. In fact, according to Wyoming Fish and Game, the state is increasing the number of hunting tags it will issue this year due to the overabundance of elk. Additionally, two-thirds of the hunting districts in southwestern Montana, all of which support wolves, are currently offering the most liberal hunting opportunities seen in 30 years due to higher elk populations, according to the Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery 2005 Interagency Annual Report. Montana wildlife officials just announced that they’re seeking additional ideas from the public to reduce elk herd numbers in the region.
“The new rule would allow the killing of wolves as a first, rather than last, resort, and the government has no basis to do so,” said Steve Thomas, regional representative from the Sierra Club, based in Sheridan, Wyoming. “Clearly, the wolves are not affecting hunting opportunities. This rule would promote the needless killing of wolves that eat elk and deer; the same animals that wolves have been preying upon for thousands of years.”
This latest rule further erodes protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. When wolves were first reintroduced in 1995, the original rules required wildlife agencies and livestock owners to first exhaust all non-lethal alternatives before killing a problem wolf. Private citizens were allowed to kill a wolf only if it was in the act of attacking livestock.
A 2005 revision by the Bush administration weakened wolf protections by eliminating the requirement that wildlife managers exhaust all non-lethal methods before resorting to killing wolves. It also permitted the killing of wolves that were proven to be “the primary” cause of deer and elk populations falling below state game objectives, but subsequent agency studies have found wolves are not the primary threat to big game populations. Private citizens were permitted to kill wolves in the act of attacking domestic animals, not just on their own property, but also on public lands they are federally permitted to use for grazing.
“Any further erosion of wolf protections, and we’ll be back to the days of shooting wolves on sight,” said Ralph Maughan, president of the Wolf Recovery Foundation. “Today, we’ve learned what an important role wolves play in our natural ecosystems. With this newly realized information, there can be no reasonable justification for returning to the days of mindlessly killing wolves.”
Boulder White Clouds Council • Defenders of Wildlife • Idaho Lands Council • Sierra Club • Western Watersheds Project • Wolf Education and Research Center • Wolf Recovery Foundation