Feds Drop Great Lakes Wolf Delisting

Feds Drop Great Lakes Wolf Delisting

(February 1, 2012) After devoting four decades and tens of millions of dollars to saving the gray wolf, the federal government wants to get out of the wolf-protection business, leaving it to individual states — and the wolves themselves — to determine the future of the legendary predator.

The Obama administration in December declared more than 4,000 wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have recovered from widespread extermination and will be removed from the endangered species list.

The federal de-listing rule removing wolves from the endangered species list was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, Dec. 28, and took effect Friday, Jan. 27.

This announcement could open the door to hunting for wolves in the Great Lakes. However, no seasons have been set and federal officials say they will continue monitoring the population for five years. Similar actions are planned for most remaining Western states and the Great Plains.

The Interior Department also said it is reconsidering a previously announced plan to remove endangered species protections for wolves in 29 Eastern states, even though they are not believed to have any established wolf populations. Officials say they will decide on the status of Eastern wolves later.

Since being added to the federal endangered species list in 1974, the American wolf population has grown fivefold — to about 6,200 animals wandering parts of 10 states outside Alaska.

Wolves “are in the best position they’ve been in for the past 100 years,” said David Mech, a senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Paul, Minn., and a leading wolf expert. The animals’ long-term survival will “depend on how much wild land remains available, because wolves are not compatible with areas that are agricultural and have a lot of humans. There’s just too much conflict.”

Since 1991, the federal government has spent $92.6 million on gray wolf recovery programs, and state agencies have chipped in $13.9 million, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

“We are ready to declare success in those areas where wolves are now secure, turn over management responsibility to the states and begin to focus our limited resources on other species that are in trouble,” said Gary Frazer, assistant director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species program.

The government still plans to nurture the Mexican gray wolf population in the desert Southwest. It’s also weighing whether to expand protections for small numbers of the animals that have slipped into the Pacific Northwest from Canada.

However, there are no plans to promote their return elsewhere. Federal officials say it’s not the government’s job to return wolves to their previous range as long as the population is stable.

The Associated Press

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