Green Right Now Reports

An expert panel reviewing a federal plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the US says the government would be based its move on faulty science.

Wolves in Yellowstone, NPS photo

Wolves in Yellowstone, where hunting is forbidden. Many tourists seek to capture the canines in photographs. (Photo: National Park Service)

The scientist panelists determined that the US may not be correctly defining the gray wolves historic territory. That’s significant, because if states in the Northeast and Pacific West served as the historic home for gray wolves, then the wolves cannot be declared “recovered” in those areas. Wolves have been spotted only sporadically in the wilderness region of some of these states, and a few are known to subsist in Washington and Oregon.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service plan asserts that the wolves that once lived in the Northeast were a separate subspecies, thus the gray wolves’ absence in that region would not require a recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act.

Gray wolves have been a political and actual battering post for the past six years as some federal and state authorities sought to remove them from protections under the Endangered Species Act. Gray wolves present in the upper Rocky Mountains and the Upper Midwest were declared recovered over the last three years and delisted from the ESA, enabling the states to take over their management and  set up wolf bounty hunting.

Wolves of the Rockies, National Park Service photo

A gray wolf (Photo: NPS)

The hunts in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, which have killed thousands of wolves, reducing the number in the Rockies by more than one-third. And they’ve been fraught with controversy. Wildlife conservationists with several environmental groups have argued in and out of court that the wolves are entitled to inhabit the region and that their numbers, which peaked at about 2,200 in the Upper Rockies, were inadequate to sustain a thriving population.

Idaho, Montana and Wyoming game departments in agreement with the federal government are aiming to maintain a collective population of 450 wolves, less than one-quarter of the size of the wolf population pre-hunting.

The review panel, set up by the USFWS, is a step in assessing whether gray wolves can be fairly delisted across the entire US, where virtually no gray wolves currently exist.

The move to wholistically delist the wolves appears aimed at disentangling the federal government from any further involvement in what has been a major battle over the top carnivore. While ranchers and hunters have lobbied for wolf hunting to reduce cattle and sheep predation, wildlife biologists has attested to the importance of the wolf in keeping wild biosystems healthy.

AP reported on the panel’s conclusion that the federal government is not using the best science in claiming the gray wolves have no right to live in other states.