Notes from Twin Peaks: 1 step forward, 2 steps back

In January there was a sigh of relief by wildlife conservation supporters here in the US.  Brand new president Barack Obama halted measures that would have eliminated Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain region (my neighbours to the East).  Well, halted is a strong word – in hindsight it turns out that it was just a delay until a full policy review could be completed by the Obama team.  

Yesterday the news came via Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that the federal government has again decided to eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky mountains except for those in Wyoming.  Yesterday’s delisting is the second time in twelve months the US government has moved to deny federal protections to wolves. Conservation groups sued to get the protections reinstated in July 2008, and were successful when in a federal judge in Montana reinstated federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves, thus preventing Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from implementing fall wolf hunts.  At that time it was determined that the delisting of wolves was inappropriate and illegal in large part because existing state wolf management plans were inadequate to ensure the long term conservation of wolves in the region, allowing far too many wolves to be unnecessarily killed.

The decision to lift wolf protections comes as Yellowstone Park wolves declined by 27 percent in the last year — one of the largest declines reported since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. Wolf populations in the northern Rockies don’t mix enough between the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, central Idaho, and northwest Montana to avoid inbreeding and ensure wolves‘ long-term survival.

Independent scientists say that between 2,000 and 3,000 wolves are needed to have a sustainable, fully-recovered population. After delisting, the northern Rockies wolf population may be allowed to drop to only 300 to 450 wolves.

To learn more about the Gray Wolf, click here.

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