The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Trump Admin Announces Plan to Strip Gray Wolves of Endangered Species Act Protections
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will attempt to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the lower 48 states, Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced Wednesday.
Bernhardt, who took over from former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in January, has been a key force behind efforts by the Trump administration's Department of Interior(DOI) to weaken the landmark conservation act.
"For over a hundred years, wolves have been needlessly persecuted. This is just one more example of the Trump Administration's attacks on the Endangered Species Act and the vulnerable wildlife it protects," Bonnie Rice of Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign said in a statement. "Wolves have barely started to recover in some areas, and still occupy only five percent of their historic range. Now is not the time to remove vital protections."
Bernhardt made the announcement at a meeting of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Denver, but an official proposal will be published in the Federal Register in the next few days, after which a public comment period will follow.
This is not the first time that the FWS has attempted to delist gray wolves in recent years. An earlier attempt was made during the Obama administration in 2013, but was struck down by federal courts, The New York Times reported.
The debate over gray wolf protections reveals a tension between farmers, ranchers and environmentalists when it comes to managing wolf populations.
Gray wolves were hunted nearly to extinction in the contiguous U.S. and there were only around 1,000 left in Minnesota when they were first granted protection in 1975. Now there are more than 5,000 living mostly in the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rockies regions, as well as Washington, Oregon and California, according to the Associated Press. Some conservation groups say they now cover five percent of their historic range while some analysts put the number at 15 percent.
The population has recovered enough that ranchers and hunters say they are a threat to livestock and game.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Jennifer Houston and Public Lands Council President Bob Skinner released a joint statement in support of the proposal to delist the species, The New York Times reported. They argued the act didn't work as intended because "radical environmental activists use an endless cycle of lawsuits and procedural tricks."
Wildlife advocates, on the other hand, say the species should be federally protected until it covers more of its historic range, which once extended across most of the lower 48 states, the Associated Press reported.
They also argue that wolves are in fact helpful for ecosystems, managing grazers like elk and protecting vegetation, according to The New York Times.
"This attempt to eliminate crucial protections for gray wolves demonstrates an anti-predator bias that continues to influence wolf management decisions," Animal Welfare Institute President Cathy Liss said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. "The undeserved hostility toward wolves is not based on principles of sound scientific management. These apex predators play a vital role in ecosystems, contribute to a multibillion-dollar outdoor tourism industry, and are an iconic symbol of our beloved native wildlife."
Gray wolves have been delisted in the Northern Rockies region, including Montana, Idaho, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and northern Utah, as of 2011.
Michigan Technological University wildlife biologist John Vucetich told the Associated Press that the survival of the species would not be immediately threatened by delisting, but that he was concerned what state management of their populations would entail.
"I do worry that some of the states could be overly aggressive and that wolves could fare worse than their current condition," he said.
Jamie Clark of Defenders of Wildlife was even more alarmed about what state management could mean.
"We don't have any confidence that wolves will be managed like other wildlife," she told the Associated Press. "We're going to fight this in any way possible."
- 10 Endangered Species Especially Threatened by the Trump ... ›
- 9000+ Scientists Defend Endangered Species Act in Letter to Trump ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A unique subpopulation of ancient walrus in Iceland was likely hunted to extinction by Vikings shortly after arrival to the region, according to new research.
By Tara Smith
Fires in the Brazilian Amazon have jumped 84 percent during President Jair Bolsonaro's first year in office and in July 2019 alone, an area of rainforest the size of Manhattan was lost every day. The Amazon fires may seem beyond human control, but they're not beyond human culpability.
By Natalie Hanman
Why are you publishing this book now?
I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face. A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans. These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.
As the climate crisis takes on more urgency, psychologists around the world are seeing an increase in the number of children sitting in their offices suffering from 'eco-anxiety,' which the American Psychological Association described as a "chronic fear of environmental doom," as EcoWatch reported.
By Ben Jervey
Drivers of electric cars are being unfairly punished by punitive fees in several states, according to a newly published analysis by Consumer Reports. Legislators in 26 states have enacted or proposed special registration fees for electric vehicles (EVs) that the consumer advocacy group found to be more expensive than the gas taxes paid by the driver of an average new gasoline vehicle.