Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today questioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) newly proposed rule to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for most gray wolves in the lower 48 states.
The gray wolf was classified as an endangered and threatened species under the ESA in 1973, the same year Congress passed the law. Thanks to those increased protections, wolf populations have increased throughout the West since becoming nearly extinct in the 1950s.
After rumors about a proposed rule led to a temporary pause by the agency earlier this year, FWS announced today that it will transfer the management of Northern gray wolves to state wildlife management agencies. The rule declares the Mexican gray wolf a distinct subspecies that will continue to receive ESA protection.
According to FWS, the Mexican gray wolf is the most genetically distinct of the U.S. gray wolf population. A small pack reintroduced in 1998 lives in the Blue Range Wolf Recover Area, an area that spans New Mexico and Arizona.
"Wolves are an integral part of the North American ecosystem, and their reintroduction has invigorated landscapes in ways that we didn't anticipate," said Rep. Grijalva. "I'm very disappointed by this proposed rule. After years of progress, now is not the right time to hand over this delicate and complicated multi-state effort to local agencies. Federal protections are working, and they should continue until a scientific consensus determines the gray wolf is fully recovered throughout its former habitat."
FWS claims that the decision is based on the best available science, but many scientists close to the recovery effort warn that the gray wolf is a long way from full recovery and express concern that FWS has ignored suitable habitat in many regions of the country. Their position is outlined in the attached letter, which you can read online at http://1.usa.gov/ZyN58Q.