UPDATE: Green groups going to courthouse again. See end of article for details.
In a “Pen and Pad” teleconference today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar told reporters he was going ahead with removing the gray wolf from the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Great Lakes States, Idaho and Montana, but not Wyoming.
“Idaho and Montana have succeeded in getting us to a point where we can delist the wolf,” Salazar announced, “and this shows us the Endangered Species Act can work. With Wyoming, frankly, the scientists in the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) do not believe the recovery plan is adequate to protect the wolf in Wyoming.
“We don’t believe we should punish the states that have done well,” he added. “We shouldn’t hold Idaho and Montana hostage to the inadequacies we have seen in Wyoming. The point is, we can make the Endangered Species Act work if we have the cooperation of the states. In the case of Wyoming, it has not worked.”
The delisting proposal now goes to the Federal Register for publication, but Salazar didn’t give a specific time frame, nor did he address litigation by green groups, which resulted in the FWS pulling back on its delisting plan last year.
“The recovery of the gray wolf throughout significant portions of its historic range is one of the great success stories of the Endangered Species Act,” Salazar concluded. “When it was listed as endangered in 1974, the wolf had almost disappeared from the continental United States. Today, we have more than 5,500 wolves, including more than 1,600 in the Rockies.
“The successful recovery of this species is a stunning example of how the Act can work to keep imperiled animals from sliding into extinction,” he said. “The recovery of the wolf has not been the work of the federal government alone. It has been a long and active partnership including states, tribes, landowners, academic researchers, sportsmen and other conservation groups, the Canadian government and many other partners.”
Wolves in other parts of the 48 states, including the Southwest wolf population, remain endangered and are not affected by the actions taken today.
In response to a Wyoming reporter’s question, Salazar said he plans to visit the Cowboy State later this year, but didn’t say how many body guards might accompany him.
P.S. Salazar also reaffirmed that his staff would “look at” the controversial national park gun rule, but it was telling how he said it. “This is one of those issues that distracts the department from more important issues.”
UPDATE: Less than two hours after Salazar’s announcement, the Sierra Club sent out a press release saying: “The state plans could threaten the long-term survival of the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies, especially given the genetic isolation of wolves throughout the recovery area. Aggressive wolf-killing practices, coupled with genetic isolation and plans to institute hunts in Idaho and Montana, could push wolf numbers dangerously low and reverse decades of recovery work. The Sierra Club, along with other conservation groups, plans to challenge the wolf delisting decision in court.”