In the last couple of days I have monitored reaction to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement that wolves are being removed from the Endangered Species List in the western Great Lakes states and parts of the northern Rocky Mountains.
The Humane Society of the United States calls the wolf recovery “a minor expansion…”
The Natural Resources Defense Council said, “We are close to creating the conditions necessary for a real recovery (emphasis mine) for wolves; but this is a setback for this goal.”
Defenders of Wildlife said, “Delisting the wolf at this point completely undermines the serious work, consideration, and cooperation among all stakeholders that is necessary before being to seriously declare the gray wolf recovered.”
All three of these groups seem to be stating that wolves are not recovered yet, but they might be one day in the future. What none of these groups will actually commit to is a number where they would agree wolf recovery has been reached. If recovery is reached, one of the battles that has kept their lawyers in business for years will dry up.
In real numbers, the “minor expansion” HSUS referred to is this: Other than a threatened population in Minnesota, there were practically no wolves at all in the lower 48 in 1974—but there are about 5,500 wolves in the lower 48 today. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began re-introducing wolves to Yellowstone in 1995, they established a scientific goal of 300 individual wolves and 30 breeding pairs (sustained for three years) to call the wolves “recovered.” Today in that region, there are 1,600 individual wolves and 95 breeding pairs.
This cannot possibly be called “minor,” nor does it remotely suggest that recovery is still unreached. It’s been reached and surpassed—by about 500 percent.
I ask these groups: How many wolves will it take before you will agree they are recovered? And on what grounds will you oppose their management then?
Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen also said that delisting “…would undermine the goal of a ensuring a healthy, sustainable wolf population in the region.”
No it won’t. All the states involved—Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington and Utah—have put years of effort into creating wolf management plans that do just that—ensure the long-term sustainability of the animals. Salazar kept wolves in Wyoming on the Endangered Species List—something none of these groups mentioned—precisely because there were concerns about that state’s plans.
Contrary to what all the animals rights’ groups would have you believe, wildlife management plans involve more than just hunting seasons. They involve population monitoring, disease control, research, habitat assessment, and livestock conflicts. With predator species like wolves, they look at the toll taken on elk, moose and deer, too. And the hunting seasons are by no means a given—Minnesota’s wolf plan calls for no hunting for five years after delisting!
So when animals rights’ groups tell you wolf delisting will put “…wolves back on the Endangered Species List,” as Melanie Stein of Sierra Club said, it simply isn’t true.
All these groups have pledged to challenge the wolf delisting in court, so their lawyers can breathe easy about employment for the moment. But the USFWS seems to have built a stronger case than ever to justify delisting. Let’s hope the wolf stays delisted and the states retain the right to manage wolves themselves. A wolf litter is typically 4-6 pups, but up to 14 in one litter have been documented. If some management isn’t imposed soon, wolves may well move past “recovered” into “too many.” If they aren’t there already.