U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Told Wolf Plan Shortsighted during Maine Hearing
Plan Denies Potential Wolf Recovery in Northeast Forests
Reston, VA., The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to abandon wolf recovery in the Northeast by removing wolves from the endangered species list in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York is premature and leaves wolves vulnerable, according to Peggy Struhsacker, NWF’s wolf team leader, who testified October 20 at a FWS hearing in Orono, Maine. Struhsacker testified that the FWS has an obligation under the Endangered Species Act to restore wolves in a significant portion of their historic range, and this includes the forests of the Northeast states.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service wants to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to wolf recovery which is contrary to what all scientific experts recommend,”says Struhsacker.
Following the great success of wolf recovery in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, the proposed rule will remove federal authority for management of wolves from over 21 states. Management responsibilities will be turned over to state wildlife agencies. The National Wildlife Federation supports removing wolves from the endangered species list in states where recovery has occurred and good state wolf management plans are in place, but does not support removing federal protection in states where good wolf habitat exists but no recovery has taken place.
“The proposal removes protection for wolves far beyond the states where wolf recovery is actually taking place,” according to Struhsacker. “It defies logic to prescribe identical management regimes for both areas when the population in one is thriving and the other doesn’t even exist yet.”
There have been several reports of wolves crossing the frozen St. Lawrence River into the Northeastern United States in recent years. Struhsacker asserts that wolves dispersing from Canada will be unable to establish a viable population because there is no federal protection and none of the Northeastern states has protection or management plans in place for gray wolves. This area provides excellent wolf habitat and ample prey.
Historically the gray wolf ranged from Canada to Mexico. Human fear and ignorance led to the eradication of wolves at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1974, the gray wolf was listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. In a proposed rule issued in 2000 during the Clinton Administration, the FWS concluded that the recovery of the gray wolf in the Northeast would be significant and would contribute to the overall restoration of the species. Scientists uniformly supported this proposal but in 2003 the Bush Administration issued a final national rule which in essence abandoned Northeast wolf recovery.
During her testimony, Struhsacker pointed out that potential wolf core habitat is in excess of 12 million acres in the northeast, where there is an abundant source of prey available that includes deer, moose, beaver and snowshoe hare. She emphasized that the northern forests need the presence of a large predator like the wolf to maintain an ecological balance.
The National Wildlife Federation applauds the FWS for its years of wolf recovery efforts, often under great political pressure, to bring wolves back in the Upper Midwest. “Instead of calling it quits as the new rule proposes, the FWS should build on its amazing success to date,” says Struhsacker. “The best next step would be to form partnerships for recovery on suitable landscapes in those states where new recovery efforts are feasible.”
In December of 2003, NWF filed a lawsuit charging that the final Wolf Reclassification Rule issued in April of 2003 violates the Endangered Species Act because it effectively terminates federal wolf recovery in the Northeast.
Protecting wildlife through education and action since 1936, the National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization creating solutions that balance the needs of people and wildlife now and for future generations.
Contact: Peggy Struhsacker, cell 802-272-1244, Strusacker@nwf.org
Mary Burnette, 703-438-6097, Burnette@nwf.org