Gray Wolves to Be Removed From Endangered Species List
Nathan Rott / NPR & RSN
(November 7, 2020) — Gray wolves, a species that has long been vilified and admired, will no longer receive federal protections under the Endangered Species Act in the Lower 48 US states, the Trump administration announced Thursday.
The long-anticipated move is drawing praise from those who want to see the iconic species managed by state and tribal governments, and harsh criticism from those who believe federal protections should remain in place until wolves inhabit more of their historical range. Gray wolves used to exist across most of North America.
“After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery,” said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, announcing the delisting, which will revert management of wolf populations to local wildlife agencies.
Federal wildlife officials are hailing the move as a success story, similar to endangered species recovery stories such as the bald eagle and American alligator.
After being nearly wiped clean from the contiguous US by the mid-20th century, there are now more than 6,000 gray wolves in the Lower 48 states, largely clustered in the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western Great Lakes region.
Critics are calling the move premature, though, and are already promising to sue.
“This is no ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment for wolf recovery,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice. “Wolves are only starting to get a toehold in places like Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and wolves need federal protection to explore habitat in the Southern Rockies and the Northeast.”
Some critics are portraying the move as another environmental attack by the Trump administration, which has rolled back dozens of environmental regulations, including protections for endangered species and migratory birds. But wolves have a complicated history that doesn’t fit cleanly into the bipartisan rancor that now dominates US environmental policies.
After being hunted, trapped, poisoned and harassed to the point of near extirpation in the contiguous US, all gray wolves south of Canada were given federal protections under the Endangered Species Act in 1978.
Under that protection, their numbers slowly recovered in the Great Lakes region, and in 1995 federal wildlife officials reintroduced gray wolves to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, where their population has since flourished.
In 2013, the Obama administration also proposed to delist gray wolves, saying that the species had rebounded to the point where they were no longer at risk of extinction and should be managed by state and tribal governments.
A couple of years earlier, wolf populations in Montana and Idaho were delisted by a congressional budget rider, authored by a Democrat and Republican senator in each of those states who were pressured by agricultural and sportsmen groups. Wolves are an apex predator that, at times, kill livestock. Subsequent lawsuits saw gray wolves get delisted, relisted and delisted again in Wyoming.
Today, state wildlife agencies manage wolf populations in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and hunting of the species is permitted.
Similar hunting seasons are expected in some Midwestern states if the national delisting survives the anticipated court challenges, and wildlife groups contend that hunting seasons will limit wolves’ ability to repopulate other parts of the country.
Randy Johnson, a large carnivore specialist for Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, told Wisconsin Public Radio this month that if wolf management fell back to the state, it would use all of the tools available to find a balance “between a healthy and sustainable wolf population, but also addressing those social concerns and livestock concerns when and where needed.”
ACTION ALERT Don’t Let Trump Destroy the Endangered Species Act
Alex Gray / Oceana Petition & The Daily Kos
(November 7, 2020) — There’s no coming back from extinction, and President Trump and his administration is trying to destroy the Endangered Species Act. President Trump trying to drastically undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a huge public uproar is our only chance to stop this attack.
President Trump is recklessly proposing to scale back critical habitat protections for species like the threatened and endangered loggerhead sea turtle, and severely limit what can be classified as protected habitat. Habitat loss is the single largest driver of extinction. Please make your voice heard before the fast-approaching November 15 deadline!
The ESA is one of the nation’s most successful and popular laws. 99% of all species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA have avoided extinction. We need to show the Trump Administration that we won’t allow special interests to drive threatened and endangered species to extinction
The ESA is a success story — one that we cannot afford to let Congress rewrite.
Add your name now to stand with Oceana and defend protections for endangered species – there’s no coming back from extinction
Some of the Species at Risk
Loggerhead sea turtles rely on the protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to survive. They suffer from habitat loss, getting caught in fishing gear, and ocean pollution such as oil spills. Without the critical habitat protections of the ESA, these turtles could slip even closer to extinction.
But now President Trump is recklessly proposing to scale back critical habitat protections for species like the threatened and endangered loggerhead sea turtle, and severely limit what can be classified as protected habitat. Ocean wildlife could lose their historical homes and habitat areas — and access to new areas needed because of climate change — to this new proposal.
Habitat loss is the single largest driver of extinction. With 1 million species at risk of extinction worldwide, now is not the time to take away essential protections that keep loggerhead sea turtles and other vulnerable species alive. Time is running out to speak out against this damaging proposed rule.
The President’s newly proposed rule will make it harder to save species from extinction. This is just the latest attack in a long line of damaging proposals. The Trump Administration is trying to kill the ESA with a death by a thousand cuts.
The ESA is critical to the protection of vulnerable marine life and the ecosystems on which they depend. To this day, it is one of our nation’s most effective and impactful environmental laws. The ESA:
• Has prevented 99% of species under its care from going extinct.
• Helped to restore populations of our oceans’ most vulnerable marine life like humpback whales.
• Passed Congress in 1973 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
We cannot let this administration go through with its anti-environment agenda – and they will win unless we fight back now. The ESA is proof that federal protections work, and marine life can come back if given the chance. We’re running out of time to make our voices heard to defend endangered species from this senseless attack – please stand for at-risk species today!
I am writing today to strongly oppose the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service’s proposed rule adding a definition of “habitat” to the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act. The proposed definition of “habitat” should instead be replaced with a definition that will support the recovery of endangered and threatened species. Alternatively, the proposed rule should be withdrawn.
The Endangered Species Act is one of our nation’s most effective and popular environmental laws. Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, the Act has prevented 99 percent of the species under its care from going extinct by relying on sound science.
Since its enactment in 1973, the Endangered Species Act has contributed to saving hundreds of species from extinction and has advanced the recovery of many more, including the iconic humpback whale. It protects vulnerable ocean wildlife like the Southern sea otter, Southern Resident orca, North Atlantic right whale, and Chinook salmon. In addition, all six species of sea turtles in U.S. waters are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, including loggerhead sea turtles.
The proposed definition of habitat would limit habitat to areas “with existing attributes that have the capacity to support individuals of the species.” This definition would exclude areas that require any level of restoration, and as species lose their current habitat to the effects of climate change, including warming temperatures and extreme weather events, this regulation would limit the ability of the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to protect the habitats upon which species have relied in the past or may rely in the near future.
Instead, the definition of “habitat” should support the conservation of threatened and endangered species and give flexibility to the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to designate areas as critical habitat that may serve as suitable habitat in the future. For example, “habitat” could be defined as:
The area or type of site where a species naturally occurs or that it depends on directly or indirectly to carry out its life processes, or where a species formerly occurred or has the potential to occur and carry out its life processes in the foreseeable future.
Climate change is causing waters to warm and beaches to erode at faster levels, which may lead sea turtles, such as endangered and threatened loggerhead sea turtles, to nest further north than usual. This may require future changes to critical habitat designations and may require restoration efforts to ensure that the new nesting sites are capable of allowing mothers to nest and eggs and hatchlings to survive.
Additionally, changes may be necessary to the critical habitat for the North Atlantic right whales due to changes in distribution for prey species as a result of warming waters. The areas where the prey species are now found, however, are areas with increased risk of ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and potential impacts from offshore energy projects. The presence of these additional threats could run afoul of the proposed rule’s definition of habitat.
The proposed rule comes on the heels of previous changes to critical habitat regulations that prohibit the designation of critical habitat for species threatened by climate change. Both individually and combined, this administration’s changes to the Endangered Species Act regulations will have disastrous effects on the survival and recovery of endangered and threatened species.
The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve endangered and threatened species. This proposed rule defies that purpose and further jeopardizes plants and animals that will not survive without the necessary protections. I urge you to follow the spirit of the Endangered Species Act and replace the definition of “habitat” with a definition that considers current and future threats to critical habitat for threatened and endangered species. Alternatively, the proposed rule should be withdrawn.
With your help, we can stop these attacks on vulnerable marine life and the critical habitats they call home.
Lara Levison is the Senior Director for Federal Policy at Oceana
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.