By Verlyn Klinkenborg
June 1, 2013
The 1973 Endangered Species Act provides federal protection — breathing space, in a very real sense — to plants and animals threatened with extinction. Had this task been left to the states alone, almost none of the species that have returned to health would have done so.
But the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service now plans to remove wolves from the endangered list in all 48 contiguous states and transfer control over their fate to the states. This may save the department from running battles with Congress, state officials and hunters about protecting the wolf. Whether it will save the animal is another matter.
Thanks entirely to federal protections, wolves have rebounded remarkably in some places. There are now about 4,000 in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and 1,600 or so more in the Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Interior has gradually delisted the wolves in all these places because, it says, their numbers are enough to guarantee survival. And it is not necessary to their survival, the service says, to protect wolves elsewhere.