(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.”