New Trump Administration Plan for Mexican Gray Wolves Puts the 'Lobo' on Path to Extinction
The Trump administration released on Wednesday its long-overdue recovery plan for Mexican gray wolves, one of the most endangered mammal species in North America with an estimated wild population of just over 100. However, the plan charts a course for extinction rather than recovery, cutting off wolf access to vital recovery habitat and failing to respond to mounting genetic threats to the species.
"It's a 'recovery plan' in name only. Without additional habitat and greater genetic diversity, the wolves will continue to teeter on the brink of extinction. The plan provides none of these essential needs," said Heidi McIntosh, an attorney with the nonprofit environmental legal organization, Earthjustice, which sued the federal government on behalf of conservation organizations.
The Trump administration refused to listen to the tens of thousands of people who asked them to fix their awful draft plan before finalizing it. Among the people who weighed in asking for stronger protections for the wolves were concerned citizens, business owners and scientists.
"Lobos waited decades for a plan to save them, only to be given one that does not guarantee recovery," said Bryan Bird, Southwest director for Defenders of Wildlife. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had the opportunity to build a plan on a foundation of science and conservation, but instead decided to let politics rule."
"Instead of moving forward with a plan based on legitimate, science-based recommendations, the Service collaborated exclusively with the very states that have gone to extraordinary lengths to obstruct Mexican wolf recovery," said Maggie Howell of the Wolf Conservation Center. "Critically endangered lobos deserve better."
"The Fish and Wildlife Service published over 250 pages of supporting 'scientific' justification, used a sophisticated model to predict extinction probabilities, then tossed the science aside and asked the states how many wolves they would tolerate with no scientific justification whatsoever," said David Parsons, former Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Using the states' arbitrary upper limit as a population cap in the population viability model and forcing additional recovery needs to Mexico, the plan will guarantee that from now to eternity no more than a running average of 325 Mexican wolves will ever be allowed to exist in the entire U.S. Southwest. This plan is a disgraceful sham."
The best available science indicates that recovery of the Mexican gray wolf requires at least three connected populations totaling approximately 750 individuals, a carefully managed reintroduction effort that prioritizes improving the genetic health of the animals and the establishment of at least two additional population centers in the southern Rockies and in the Grand Canyon area.
"This isn't a recovery plan, it's a blueprint for disaster for Mexican gray wolves," said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Limiting recovery to south of Interstate 40 keeps wolves out of the Grand Canyon and southern Rocky Mountains, areas that would greatly benefit from having wolves back and that scientists have determined are absolutely essential to their recovery."
The recovery plan just released by the Trump administration ignores the science and falls short in several key and interrelated ways:
- Fails to establish the additional population centers and limits wolves to inadequate habitat with low recovery potential;
- Does not provide for sufficient releases of wolves into the wild;
- Fails to ensure conservation and enhancement of genetic diversity to ameliorate inbreeding;
- Relies excessively on Mexico for recovery, where habitat is unpromising.
"It is critical for the health of the Mexican wolf population to obtain a sound, scientifically reviewed and based recovery plan. Politics should not play a role in management of an endangered species," said Virginia Busch, executive director of the Endangered Wolf Center.
The critically endangered Mexican gray wolf almost vanished from the face of the earth in the mid-20th century because of human persecution. The entire population of Mexican wolves alive today descends from just seven individuals that were captured and placed into a captive breeding program before the species was exterminated from the wild.
In 2014, Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, retired Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David R. Parsons, the Endangered Wolf Center and the Wolf Conservation Center, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to develop a recovery plan.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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