Right whales, © Sea to Shore Alliance/NOAA, NOAA permit #15488

Wildlife Weekly Wrap-Up

More Waters Now Safer for Right Whale!
This has been a great week for North Atlantic right whales! At long last, the National Marine Fisheries Service published a final rule to revise and expand designated critical habitat for this critically endangered species.  Defenders petitioned the agency to revise the critical habitat designation in 2009 and has had to litigate twice to compel the agency to take action. The Fisheries Service’s revised designation establishes nearly 40,000 square miles of ocean off the North and South Atlantic coasts as critical foraging and calving habitat for these rare whales, of which only around 500 remain. While this will help protect the areas of the Atlantic coast that right whales use for foraging and calving, there’s still much more that needs to be done to ensure their full recovery. Read about those efforts here.

Wolf, © ODFW

Idaho’s Questionable Wolf Collaring in the Frank Church
It’s a constant battle to protect wolves in Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness, the nation’s largest forested wilderness area in the Lower 48. Since 2011 when wolves were delisted in Idaho by Congress, hunters, trappers and government officials have killed more than 1000 in the state. The state’s management plan calls for an intensive program of wolf killing in the Middle Fork Zone, the core of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, potentially using paid hunters and trappers over successive years to kill up to 60 percent of the wolves living there. There are no livestock there, and no excuses that can justify this level of persecution. We’ve been to court several times to protect wolves in this core wilderness area. Now, we’ve learned that Idaho’s wildlife managers trapped and collared four wolves “by mistake” in an effort to collar elk in the region. Our fear is that Idaho’s anti-wolf managers will use this GPS information to track and kill wolves in the Frank. Defenders is the only national organization with boots on the ground, organizing and building public support for wolves in Idaho and we won’t stop fighting for them. We will continue to raise awareness about Idaho’s mismanagement of wolves, mobilizing activists to speak out against the exclusive use of lethal control to manage wolves in Idaho, and educating Idaho’s state legislators about the cost-effectiveness of nonlethal wolf management.

New National Wildlife Refuge Proposed
Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the creation of a new wildlife refuge—Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge—across six Northeastern states: Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The new refuge would protect the imperiled New England cottontail rabbit and as many as 65 other species that depend on rare thick, tangled brushy habitat (called “thickets”) across the Northeast. We are encouraged to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continuing to protect our nation’s wildlife and their habitats, despite the precarious and frustrating situation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. We look forward to the establishment of Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge as the next addition to the most expansive public lands system in the world dedicated to conserving fish and wildlife.