(STAFF REPORTS/Chewelah Independent)
Wolf population has grown by five times its 1975 population…
U.S. wildlife officials are lifting protections on gray wolves in the Lower 48 states, after the predator is rebounding in terms of population in some regions of the country, the Associated Press is reporting. Conflicts with farmers and ranchers have made headlines for years in the state and the decision is sure to bring some legal resistance from conservation groups.
NE Washington has been part of this wolf recovery controversy, as wolves have migrated in from other areas and now the bulk of the state’s wolves now reside in the right upper corner of the state. Gray wolves received endangered species protection in 1975 when there was about 1,000 wolves left in northern Minnesota. Now it is estimated that 5,000 of the animals live in the US, including several packs in Washington. Gray wolves are currently not federally protected in eastern Washington. WDFW classifies wolves as endangered species in the state of Washington. In the eastern one-third of Washington, wolves are federally delisted, but remain state listed as endangered and receive protection from hunting, possession, malicious harassment, and killing under state law.
Ranchers and cattlemen applauded the decision, although due to the state’s current classification of wolves as endangered, it does not change how they’ll be handled in the near future unless the state change’s their policy.
“The WCA appreciates Acting Secretary Bernhardt and his team at Department of Interior, especially those at the US Fish and Wildlife service for their work to delist the grey wolf using scientific and commercial data. In Washington state we have a collaborative group who helps set protocols for instances when wolves depredate or harass livestock, we appreciate the federal delisting as it puts the management of the wolves into state hands. Ultimately, we hope this action allows us to take a serious look at state delisting.” said Washington Cattlemen’s Association President, Sam Ledgerwood.
Some conservation groups have already released statements denouncing the lifting of protection on gray wolves.
“Wolves have only been restored in a tiny fraction of their historic and suitable range,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Wolf recovery could be one of America’s greatest wildlife conservation success stories if the Fish and Wildlife Service would finish the job it started. Without the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act, gray wolves would never have recovered in the places where they are now. By removing protections across the country, the Trump Administration is essentially abandoning all efforts to restore this iconic American species to millions of acres of wild habitat.”
The bulk of the gray wolves are in the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rockies. Protections were lifted in the Northern Rockies region and they can now be hunted. Wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho in the mid-1990s and have expanded across the Pacfic Northwest.
Since being reintroduced in Yellowstone National park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s, the Northern Rockies population has expanded to parts of Oregon, Washington and California.
Conservation Northwest did not denounce the delisting, and said that state policy means there will be little change in Washington with the federal decision.
“We’re reviewing the delisting proposal from USFWS and we empathize with concerns from colleagues in states such as California and Colorado where wolves have not yet recovered,” said Chase Gunnell, Conservation Northwest spokesperson. “However, given the quality of Washington’s Wolf Plan and investments in collaborative wolf conservation and management work here, we do not expect federal delisting to have a significant impact on wolves in our state. Wolf recovery is progressing well in Washington and our wolves will remain a state endangered species until state recovery goals are met.”
WDFW said “should this proposal move forward we will continue to work closely with our partners, stakeholders and communities, just as we have over the past decade, on the return of wolves to Washington. Our citizens, advisory committee, and Fish and Wildlife Commission are very engaged on this topic and under this scenario, none of that changes.”
In a release the same day as the US announced, WDFW announced that it would be doing its periodic review of the state’s gray wolf population and its classification as an endangered species in the state.
“The delisting criteria in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 220-610-110 indicates the Fish and Wildlife Commission shall delist a wildlife species from endangered, threatened, or sensitive solely on the basis of the biological status of the species being considered, based on the preponderance of scientific data available,” WDFW said in its release. “It also indicates a species may be delisted from endangered, threatened, or sensitive when it meets the recovery plan goals OR (emphasis added) when it is no longer in danger of failing, declining, are no longer vulnerable to factors like limited numbers, disease, predation, exploitation, or habitat loss or change.”
The department said it will review all relevant date pertaining to the state’s population and factors affecting the existence of wolves in Washington. Read the entire statement here.