Lawsuit Launched to Protect Rare Alaskan Wolf
Obama Administration Delays Protection for Alexander Archipelago Wolf Threatened by Logging in Tongass National Forest
ANCHORAGE, Alaska— The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tuesday of their intent to file suit against the agency for delaying Endangered Species Act protection for the Alexander Archipelago wolf, a rare subspecies of gray wolf found only in the old-growth forests of southeast Alaska. In August 2011 the groups filed a petition to protect the wolves, which are at risk of extinction because of the U.S. Forest Service’s unsustainable logging and road-building practices in the Tongass National Forest. The Service, which was required by the Endangered Species Act to determine whether listing may be warranted within 90 days of the filing, has not yet responded to the petition.
“The existence of this unique wolf is imperiled by ongoing old-growth logging that adds to the high loss of quality wildlife habitat, which has occurred across all land ownerships in the forests of southeast Alaska over the past six decades,” said Greenpeace forest campaigner Larry Edwards. “The ongoing logging is further reducing and fragmenting forest habitat, to the detriment of the wolf and its deer prey.”
Heavily reliant on old-growth forests, Alexander Archipelago wolves den in the root systems of very large trees and hunt mostly Sitka black-tailed deer, which are themselves dependent on high-quality, old-growth forests, especially for winter survival. A long history of clear-cut logging on the Tongass and private and state-owned lands has devastated much of the wolf’s habitat on the islands of southeast Alaska.
Logging on the Tongass also brings new roads, making wolves vulnerable to hunting and trapping. As many as half the wolves killed on the Tongass are killed illegally, and hunting and trapping are occurring at unsustainable levels in many areas. Despite scientific evidence showing that Alexander Archipelago wolf populations will not survive in areas with high road density, the Forest Service continues to build new logging roads in the Tongass. Road density is an urgent concern on heavily fragmented Prince of Wales Island and neighboring islands, home to an important population of the wolves.
“There’s no excuse for delaying protections for these unique island wolves of the Tongass,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “More and more Alexander Archipelago wolves are falling victim to irresponsible logging of these ancient trees, as well as unsustainable hunting. If the Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t act soon to protect this highly specialized predator, America is going to lose another precious piece of its biological heritage.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service considered listing the wolf under the Act in the mid-1990s but chose not to do so, based on new protective standards set out in the Forest Service’s 1997 Tongass Forest Plan. Unfortunately, as outlined in the groups’ 2011 petition, the Forest Service has not adequately implemented those standards.
This week’s 60-day notice of intent to sue is a legally required precursor before a lawsuit can be filed to compel the Fish and Wildlife Service to comply with the law and act to save these wolves.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Contact Info: Rebecca Noblin, Center for Biological Diversity (907) 274-1110
Website : Center for Biological Diversity