Gray wolf delisted from Endangered Species Act

Wolves are often implicated as the top predator affecting prey populations. photo submitted by National Park Service.

The gray wolf, which has been on Endangered Species List for 45 years and reintroduced in Yellowstone 25 years ago, was just delisted by President Donald Trump. In December of last year, Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney from Utah, Steve Daines from Montana and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin introduced legislations to remove the gray wolf from the ESA.

Wolves are often implicated as the top predator affecting prey populations.

The delisting was proposed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Services so wolves could be managed by individual states.

Sen. Lee said science is on the government’s side.

Today there are an estimated 5,600 gray wolves in the United States and grey wolf population continues to exceed the appropriate management levels,” Lee said. “The levels were established by relevant state wildlife divisions and benchmarks from the Fish and Wildlife Service.”

The worry is there are so many gray wolves roaming the west that they have become a real threat to America’s livestock.

“Populations have reached critically high numbers in many states – so high, in fact, that wolves are not just preying on livestock, but pushing elk and deer onto U.S. farms and ranches, which leads to even more destruction,” said the American Farm Bureau Federation when the FWS announced their new regulation.

“The State of Utah applauds the delisting of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). States are often best positioned to appropriately manage wildlife populations,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department on Natural Resources. “With the number of wolves growing across the West, we believe it is time to allow the states to take the helm.”

He said Utah has shown great success in growing and maintaining wildlife populations statewide, and he anticipates they will have similar success in managing wolf populations.

“Utah currently faces unique challenges related to wolf management under the ESA,” Steed said. “Until now, wolves had been delisted in just a small portion of northeastern Utah.”

Outside northeastern Utah, wolves were protected under the federal ESA and management was the responsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under this nation-wide delisting, wolves will be managed under a statewide management plan to guide the reestablishment of wolves in Utah.

Actions by neighboring states have complicated Utah’s ability to manage gray wolves under the ESA,” Steed said. “For example, a current Colorado ballot initiative calls for Colorado Parks and Wildlife to implement a reintroduction of wolves west of the continental divide.”

It makes sense that if wolves enter Utah from Colorado, DWR must have the ability to manage them or there could be significant conflicts with agriculture and wildlife populations.

Steed was also concerned about the potential impacts of Colorado’s proposed introduction of gray wolves on the genetic integrity of the endangered Mexican wolf population in New Mexico and Arizona, and the ESA status of any intergrade wolves (hybrids of subspecies).

The bill would also prohibit a judicial review, thus preventing any legal challenge.

This bill would not stop, or even slow, a possible relisting of the gray wolf if population numbers fall in the future. If the situation changes, if the science shows the grey wolf has become endangered again, then a future government could relist the grey wolf. This bill does not prevent that.

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