Midwest wolves proposed for delisting

Last week, Defenders submitted a comment letter supporting the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s proposal to delisting the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes.  Specifically, the Service proposes to establish a gray wolf distinct population segment that includes as its core area the states of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and then immediately delisting that segment.

We support the delisting because we believe the population segment has exceeded appropriate science-based recovery goals; the wolf management plans and regulations for Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin are adequate to maintain recovered wolf population levels; and the post-delisting monitoring plan, if properly implemented, is robust enough to monitor the status of the wolves and the adequacy of state management activities.  Although none of the state plans is perfect, we believe the deficiencies are not serious enough to prevent the states from maintaining the long-term viability of the distinct population segment.  This is because each state appears willing and capable of overcoming these challenges by regulating human take of wolves, maintaining a sufficient prey base for them, and protecting their denning and rendezvous sites.

One of the most important but underappreciated aspects of delisting is that it frees up government resources to help other, more imperiled species recovery under the Endangered Species Act.  There are nearly 2,000 species listed under the Act, many of which have received paltry funds for recovery.  Money spent on one species often means money not spent on many other species that face even more dire risks of extinction.  We are unfortunately confronted with a growing throng of imperiled species jammed into an emergency room that is bursting at the seams.  While the population of western Great Lakes wolves has not healed itself to pre-European Settlement levels, it is well enough to leave the emergency room.

This is not to say that recovery ends once a patient leaves triage.  We believe that the Endangered Species Act is only one aspect of the system of managing America’s wildlife diversity.  The Service should encourage and help states in any of their efforts to restore wolves to ecologically functional population levels.  Populations of highly-interactive species such as wolves are important to maintaining other plant and wildlife diversity in ecosystems.  For now, we hope you share our recognition of this important milestone for wolves in the Great Lakes region.

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Ya-Wei Li is the Senior Director of Endangered Species Conservation at Defenders of Wildlife.

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dotWild is the blog of scientists and policy experts at Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.