Several conservation groups on Thursday criticized a decision by President Donald Trump’s administration to repeal the federal protection for the gray wolf provided for in the Endangered Species Act.
The gray wolf has benefited from federal protection for more than 45 years and has “successfully recovered” in the USA, according to a press release from the US Department of the Interior. More than 6,000 gray wolves now live in the neighboring United States, a number which, according to the ministry, can be attributed to the years the species spent on the federal list of endangered species.
State and tribal governments will be responsible for managing the conservation of the species from January 4, 2021, when the new classification comes into effect. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will also monitor the number of species over the next five years “to ensure the species’ continued success,” federal officials said.
The U.S. Department of the Interior press release included comments from several heads of state and federal lawmakers, including the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, the governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, and the senator from Utah, Mike Lee. Many of the supporters included in the press release said that lifting protection for species whose populations have recovered since joining the list should be considered a success for the Endangered Species Act.
But the federal government’s decision to classify gray wolves as a “successful recovery” came under fire on Thursday when several conservation groups issued statements in protest against the decision.
“Lifting gray wolf protection in the midst of a global extinction crisis is short-sighted and dangerous to America’s conservation legacy,” said Bart Melton, director of the National Parks Conservation Association’s wildlife program, in a press release. Melton referred to the national parks in western states that have seen the return of the gray wolf in recent years as examples of how federal conservation has helped the species.
“Instead of working with communities to support the return of wolves to these historic and world-class habitat areas, the administration today essentially said ‘good enough’ and repealed protection under the Endangered Species Act,” he said.
In a statement posted on the Defenders of Wildlife website, the non-profit organization’s President and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark, described the decision as “premature and reckless.
“Grey wolves occupy only a fraction of their former range and continue to need federal protection to fully recover. We will take the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to court to defend this iconic species,” said Clark’s statement.
Lindsay Larris, head of the wildlife program for the non-profit environmental organization WildEarth Guardians, said in a press release that the decision “is another example of the Trump administration ignoring science.
In a statement he shared with Tekk.tv, Larris said the federal government’s statement that the species had successfully recovered was “not supported by scientific evidence.
“Under the Endangered Species Act, a species can be considered recovered if there is no longer a risk of extinction in a significant portion of its range,” Larris said. “Wolves currently inhabit only between 10 and 20% of their historic range. The fact that wolves do not inhabit even a significant portion of their range raises the question of how one can reasonably say that the U.S. is even close to the “successful” recovery of this iconic species”.
Larris added that an earlier move in 2011 to remove gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains region from the endangered species list has led to mismanagement by local authorities who should be taking over the protection of the species.
“These wolves are threatened with extinction throughout their historic range, which shows that today’s decision was a desperate political move to appease a small portion of the population and was not based on science,” Larris said.
Tekk.tv contacted the US Department of the Interior for further comments, but did not receive a response in time for publication.