Last June when the US Fish and Wildlife Service submitted a proposal to essentially delist gray wolves in the Western States they compromised the credibility of the Agency, ignored the public will and opened themselves to what has become global criticism from the scientific community. This latter shortcoming was epitomized by the recent letter in the international publication Nature called Grey wolves left out in the cold: US plan to remove federal protection elicits howls of protest.
“I apologize for telling you that you were on the project and then having to give you this news. I understand how frustrating it must be, but we have to go with what the service wants.” Line from letter to one of the expelled peer-review scientists from AMEC, the USFWS contractor for the peer-review.
Now all of this reflects on the content of the proposal and whether it passes the giggle test which is does not. In addition, there are also numerous process issues. First and foremost is the Agency’s selection of a foreign consulting firm with ties to the energy and development communities as a contractor to deal with scientific peer review and enabling them to purge dissenting scientists. This issue of Agency bias and them forcefully walking this proposal to a predetermined outcome was further exacerbated by the Agency’s over-reliance on agriculture and trophy hunter-dominated fish and wildlife agencies and legislators in the West as surrogates for the public they serve and as a back-up choir to their premature delisting proposal. This is particularly problematic when we have graphic and gruesome examples of the actions of the three Northern Rockies states post-delisting.
While we are rolling out shortcomings of the US FWS proposal we also urge the Agency to take a hard look at criteria five listed in section 4(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act which goes like this: There are other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. The agency should realize that wolf bigotry in many instances is manmade and that it is and remains a factor that affects the wolves’ continued existence in places where they are and is a barrier to their continued recovery. While the Service is aware of this significant factor they have done really very little to address it and have left this task up to conservation groups and other to counter the myth promulgated by organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, and a variety of other "wedge" groups.
While the US Fish and Wildlife Service is demonstrating their anxiousness to step away from gray wolf recovery in the West, they have materially failed to provide a scientifically defensible proposal, polluted the process with bias, and neglected to address one of the core reasons for the imperilment of this important ecological actor. And this situation is only made worse by the woefully inadequate number and scope of public hearings and the government shut down. The Service needs to go back to drawing board and come back when they have made legitimate attempts to set and meet defensible recovery goals in the rest of the Pacific Northwest and the Southern Rockies, dealt realistically with these manmade factors, and broadly engaged the scientific community and addressed their issues.
If you are upset by this proposal and want to do something for wolves, please sign our petition, submit your own comments by October 28, 2013 (see Do the Wolf Waltz for details) and support our work to protect this important species and the habitats that wildlife need to survive and thrive.