On May 7, 2019 more than 100 scientists sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt objecting to the proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across nearly all of the lower 48 states.
The letter explains that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal “does not represent the best-available science pertaining to wolf conservation. Delisting wolves at this time would be an inappropriate shortcut…such intervention can seem like an expedited solution, but its larger effect is to inhibit progress on the broader issues of conservation and ESA implementation.”
Under the Endangered Species Act, all decisions to list or remove protections for imperiled species must be based solely on the best available science.
Led by renowned wolf biologist John A. Vucetich, professor at Michigan Technological University, and environmental scholar Michael Paul Nelson, professor at Oregon State University, the letter notes numerous deficiencies with the wolf delisting proposal.
The Fish and Wildlife Service failed to account for wolf recovery in large portions of the wolf’s historic range where suitable recovery habitat still could be occupied.
The best available science clearly shows that wolves are not ready to be delisted because the Endangered Species Act requires a species to be recovered throughout a larger portion of its historic range, and this has not been achieved yet.”
“Issues that arise in recovering wolves, such as concern over conflicts between wolves and livestock, are all quite manageable and wolves shouldn’t be delisted because it is a politically expedient solution to these conflicts,” said Vucetich.
Without federal protections in place, management of wolf populations would be transferred to state wildlife agencies. Previous attempts to prematurely remove protections for wolves led to trophy hunting and trapping seasons with quotas designed to reduce their populations to arbitrary goals based on politics and not the best available science.
“The vast majority of the American public has shown time and again that they are supportive of wolf conservation and want science to guide wolf recovery,” said Nelson. “Ignoring science and letting politics guide wolf delisting will set a disastrous precedent for hundreds of other endangered species whose survival is dependent upon the protections provided by the Endangered Species Act.”