Proposal to remove gray wolves from federal Endangered Species list would allow 'lethal control'
May 6, 2011
Michigan wildlife officials gave a hearty thumb’s up to the federal government’s Thursday proposal to remove gray wolves from the federal Endangered Species list in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. If all goes well, following a 60 day public comment period Michigan could eventually regain its ability to authorize “lethal control” on wolves that become a problem to farmers.
“We are happy to see this move forward,” said Debbie, Munson Badini, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “We have wanted this for some time now. We have a highly regarded wolf management plan ready to roll and that plan gives us some flexibility dealing with problem wolves.
Wolves would still be protected in Michigan once they come off the federal list. They are currently classified as a non-game, protected species in Michigan. They would continue to be so once the federal designation is lifted. Federal endangered classification supersedes the state designation which is more lenient.
Michigan gray wolves were downlisted from threatened to non-game protected by state officials in 2009 after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first delisted the Great Lakes gray wolf population - a decision that was later overturned in the courts. State officials say they have been waiting for the opportunity to return.
The state has an indemnity plan that helps reimburse farmers for their livestock losses, but some farmers have taken matters in the their own hands. There are currently a dozen wolf poaching cases under investigation, according to Badini who said social tolerance for has declined in recent years as their numbers have grown.
There are now a minimum of 687 wolves in the Upper Peninsula, according to the DNR’s recent winter survey. That is a record high, Badini said. There are also a “handful” of wolves in the Lower Peninsula.
“People in the UP have begun to take a negative view of wolves and social carrying capacity has gone down,” Badini said. “Our wolf plan still requires that we consider non-lethal methods first, If they don’t work and we think lethal methods are the best option, we will be able to go there. We think having that lethal control may increase people’s acceptance of wolves.”
Hunting wolves will not be an option once they are delisted. They will be classified a non-game species. Changing that status to game species would require an act of Michigan’s state legislature. State officials say lethal control could be put in place by the end of 2011.
Wolves were added to the Endangered Species list in 1973, They nearly disappeared from the state in the early 1960’s and slowly filtered back emigrating into the Upper Peninsula from Minnesota and Ontario. The number now well exceeds the federal recovery goal of 100 wolves for five years between Wisconsin and Michigan, Badini said.
“Maintaining endangered species status for a recovered species like wolves is not beneficial to the animals and erodes public support for the Endangered Species Act,” Chris Hoving, the DNR’s Endangered Species coordinator said in a press announcement.
Thursday’s move by the federal wildlife agency also coincided with an unprecedanted move by Congress to lift Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. Public hunts for hundreds of wolves already are planned this fall in Idaho and Montana.
Conservationists have hailed the animal’s recovery from near extinction last century as a landmark achievement — one that should be extended to the Pacific Northwest and New England.
But their return has stirred a backlash from agriculture and sporting groups angry over wolf attacks on livestock and big game herds.
Interior Department officials said Wednesday that the most suitable wolf habitat already was occupied. No further introductions of the species are planned.
Many biologists say wolves recovered to sustainable levels a decade ago in some parts of the lower 48 states. But it took a rider to the federal budget bill inserted by Western lawmakers to overcome years of lawsuits and lift protections for 1,300 wolves in the Northern Rockies.
The rider barred any courtroom challenges and marked the first time Congress has removed an animal listed under the endangered act. Protections for the Rockies wolves are to be lifted effective with a Thursday notice in the Federal Register.
“From a biological perspective, gray wolves have recovered,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “That is a remarkable milestone for an iconic American species.”
The Great Lakes proposal also includes portions of North and South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, although government biologist Laura Ragan said no wolves permanently reside in those states.
A pending petition before the Interior Department seeks to extend the government’s wolf recovery plan nationwide. But Noah Greenwald with the Center for Biological Diversity, the sponsor of the petition, said Wednesday’s announcement made clear that the government has no such intentions.
“In our view wolf recovery is not done,” Greenwald said. “We’re disappointed with seeing the Fish and Wildlife Service attempt to get out from under it.”
Fish and Wildlife officials said they plan to review the gray wolf’s status in the Pacific Northwest and the desert Southwest.
Gray wolves also are coming off the list in eastern states, but officials say that’s because emerging science indicates that another predator, the Eastern wolf, is the region’s native wolf species. Those are now largely absent from the United States but occasionally wander from Canada into New England.
Source: http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf ... olves.html
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