The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has just confirmed our fears in Wyoming — wolves in that state are now officially being removed from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, and will be vulnerable to the state’s wildlife management plan, a document hardly worthy of the name. Since speaking with officials at the White House and the USFWS, I knew this day could be coming soon, but I hoped that those with the power to make this decision would see reason and allow science, not politics, to carry the day.
To add insult to injury, the announcement was made today – the Friday before Labor Day weekend. Many people in a position to react to this news — policy officials, legislators, the media — are likely taking an early day off to enjoy the long weekend. Unfortunately, it is a common practice in Washington, D.C., to use a day like this to make an announcement that one is fairly certain will not be well-received. It can be made to a minimal audience, while few may be paying attention, and then hopefully forgotten about through the many distractions of a holiday weekend. A common practice, but a cowardly one.
Now, wolves in Wyoming are more vulnerable than they have been in decades. The state’s management plan allows for the unregulated killing of wolves throughout most of Wyoming. Those who wish to kill wolves in all but a small portion of the state will not need to buy tags or permits. There will be no bag limits no wolves, or any requirement to report wolf kills. Anyone will be free to eliminate wolves by almost any means, from shooting to gassing them in their dens, even on national forests and wildlife refuges. There will be a quick and merciless effort to bring the wolf population down to the lowest possible number without triggering a re-listing. Wolves will be treated as vermin, instead of being protected as the still-recovering species that they really are. And all of this could start as soon as October 1 — sooner, if the USFWS decides to waive the traditional 30-day waiting period between the announcement and the effective date.
Though I hoped for a better outcome, we at Defenders have also made sure that we were prepared for the worst, if it came to that. We’ll be taking this fight to the courts to show the administration and the USFWS that this so-called management plan is unacceptable. Its approval is questionable, its methods are reckless, and the low bar that it sets for wildlife recovery under the Endangered Species Act has the potential to place hundreds more endangered species in harm’s way. It is a dangerous precedent, and we cannot allow it to stand.
In the meantime, if you are as upset by this decision as we are, there are two things you can do. The first is to spread the word. Tell others about this situation, and raise awareness, instead of allowing the decision to pass quietly. You can also give feedback directly to the parties responsible through the links and phone numbers below:
You can also help support our efforts to fight the delisting through legal channels by clicking here.
Together, we worked for years to help bring wolves back from the brink in one of the most successful wildlife conservation efforts in U.S. history. We have come so far. If we have to keep fighting to prevent them from turning back the clock, then that’s exactly what we’ll do.