GENESEE COUNTY — In its efforts to keep our areas wildlife populations healthy and happy, as well as the rest of the states, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced on April 14 it would try and drop the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. While past attempts to delist the gray wolf have been overruled by the courts, this attempt would cover the Western Great Lakes Area, which includes Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with parts of several adjacent states.
Based on the idea that wolves have already exceeded recovery goals and continue to grow in numbers, the USFWS estimates a population of over 4,000 in this region. This includes 557 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, 690 in Wisconsin and 2,922 in Minnesota. Also playing a part in the concept of lifting federal protection is each state’s individual wolf management plan.
“Wolves in the Western Great Lakes have achieved recovery,” said USFWS Acting Director Rowan Gould. “We are taking this step because wolf populations have met recovery goals and no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. We are asking the public to review this proposal and provide us with any additional information that can help our final decision.”
What comes next for the USFWS is a fact-gathering process that includes the scientific community, Native American tribes, government agencies and private citizens on issues such as trends, threats, populations size and other factors effecting the long-term existence of the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes. Those looking to submit comments of their own can do so by way of Federal eRulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov and following the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWSR3 ES-2011-0029]. Statements and thoughts can also be shared through the U.S. mail to Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. [FWS-R3- ES-2011-0029], Division of Policy and Directives Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM, Arlington, VA., 22203.
In establishing these directives, the USFWS has also identified the presence of the eastern wolf (Canis Lycaon) in the Western Great Lakes, which was previously thought to be a sub-species of the gray wolf called the Canis lupus lycaon and historically is located in the northeatsern US and eastern Canada. Input on these wolves, which would also lose federal protection, can be addressed through the above-listed avenues, as well. Once the comment period is closed, all of the submissions will be posted to www.regulations.gov. In the meantime, the gray wolf will remain endangered throughout the Western Great Lakes except Minnestoa, where it is listed as threatened.
Recently in Idaho, a federal judge heard a similar case, which concluded on April 9 by blocking a proposal to raise the endangered species protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho. Had the plan passed, the 1,300 wolves located in these two states would have been subject to public hunting. The reason U.S District Judge Donald Malloy gave for shooting the concept down wasn’t quite that simple, though, stating the proposed settlement between conservation groups and U.S. Wildlife officials was still under dispute and could end in litigation.
This decision came the same day that Idaho Republican Represenative Mike Simpson and Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester made their constituents aware that wolves in these two states would be removed from the endangered list under the budget bill pending in Congress, which may have been motivated by political pressure stemming from the gradual increase of wolf attacks on big-game herds that are in decline and livestock. The budget passed on April 14, allowing the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to delist the wolves within 60 days.
“Wildlife management is about seeking a balance, in this case a balance between wolves, other wildlife, livestock producers and other interests,” said Joe Maurier, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “Montana played a pivotal role in the recovery of the Rocky Mountain gray wolf and the expectation is that Montana will play an important role its future. FWP is prepared and ready to meet that challenge. We are committed to the responsible conservation and management of the wolf to ensure that the population remains vital and recovered in Montana.”