Gray wolves lose protection in the Northern Rockies, but hopefully not for long

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As expected, today the Secretary of the Interior officially made available the final rule removing the Northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves from the list of federally endangered species in Montana and Idaho.  The rule will take effect 30-days after it is published (tomorrow) and will immediately open wolves in the region to state management which, in the case of Idaho, at least, will undoubtedly mean widespread killing

Besides being a really dumb policy, the delisting rule is also illegal.  NRDC and Earthjustice will be sending a 60-day notice of intent to sue letter with our allies tomorrow, when the rule is published, in which we lay out exactly why the rule does not work.  Here’s the cliff notes version:

  • The delisting plan arbitrarily relies on an old and outdated recovery target of 30 breeding pairs of wolves in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.   Not only was the adoption of these goals flawed at the time, but since then the science has become even more clear that a far larger population is needed to ensure recovery.
  • The notice of the proposed delisting didn’t give the public the opportunity to comment on many of its aspects, including its controversial plan to artificially relocate wolves from one population to another in order to promote genetic connectivity.
  • The delisting plan redefines wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains as a “distinct population segment” and then strips them of protection—but in doing so the agency ignores the fact that wolves are protected as a species nationwide.  The plan also delists wolves in areas where they haven’t even arguably recovered, such as portions of Oregon and Washington.
  • The delisting plan erroneously finds that Montana’s and Idaho’s post-delisting wolf management plans are adequate to conserve wolves but these plans will, in fact, allow very aggressive wolf killing.  Idaho’s plan is particularly problematic and the state has already proposed a wolf hunting quota that would allow 40% of Idaho’s wolves to be killed;

There’s more of course, but this should give you flavor of the profound problems with delisting.  Make no mistake, wolf reintroduction and recovery in the region is one of the most remarkable conservation success stories of the last twenty years and we are very close to achieving real recovery.  But if this delisting plan goes forward, all of that could be lost and the viability of wolves in the Northern Rockies will suffer a severe blow.