Comment on the Gray Wolf's Status

Reader Contribution by Ramsey Cox
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced today that it is reopening the public comment period on the 2007 proposal to delist the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains from the Endangered Species List. The public has until November 28, 2008 to submit comments.

The Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan started in 1987. The Recovery Plan committee did not believe the wolves would naturally reestablish themselves in the Yellowstone ecosystem. The committee proposed the transplantation of healthy wolves to the area to increase and aid the recovery of the wolf population, something the 1982 Amendment to the Endangered Species Act allowed.

There are two ways to submit a comment on the proposal to delist the gray wolf: through the Federal eRuling Portal at or through the U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn:  RIN 1018-Au53; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA  22203. E-mails and faxes are not accepted.

The affected areas are all of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon and parts of north-central Utah, although FWS welcomes comments from the public of all states and regions.

Minimum recovery goals of 30 breeding pairs and 300 wolves for three consecutive years have been met and retained since 2002.

Some livestock owners argue for taking the gray wolves off the Endangered Species List because the increased wolf population has depleted livestock.

FWS’s September 2008 estimates said there were 1,463 gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and 172 depredating wolves were killed. The Service also estimated that wolves killed 170 cattle, 244 sheep, 10 dogs and 6 llamas.

Defenders of Wildlife president Rodger Schlickeisen disagrees with delisting the gray wolf. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is merely repackaging a severely flawed rule instead of taking a fresh look at the management of wolves in the region,” Schlickeisen said. “The original proposal allows around 1,000 wolves to be killed as soon as they lose the protections of the Endangered Species Act – slashing the population by as much as two thirds.” 

Wolves play a key role in ecosystems. This predator typically preys on young or elderly and injured or sick animals. By controlling the population of large herbivores such as deer and elk, wolves help maintain biodiversity. If elk and deer overgraze, they destroy the plant base, which makes the area less habitable to other species.

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