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Scientists Reject Moves to Remove Wolf Protections
48 noted scientists urge Norton to scrap her department's plans to downlist the gray wolf

May 30, 2002, more June 1


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Contact:
Brad DeVries,  202-772-0237 (Defenders of Wildlife)
Jen Clanahan,  720.565.8630 (Wildlands Project)  
Mike Phillips,  406-556-8500 (Turner Endangered Species Fund)

WASHINGTON -- In a strongly-worded letter today to Secretary of the
Interior Gale Norton, 48 noted scientists urged her to scrap her
department's plans to downlist the gray wolf under the federal endangered
species act. Norton's proposal sets the stage to hand off protection of
the species to several state governments, including Idaho, where the
legislature recently voted for complete eradication of wolves in the
state, and Minnesota, which has re-instituted a bounty on wolves. The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's draft rule also would end prospects for
the species to return to vast areas of the wolf's former range in the
Northeast, Northwest, northern California and the southern Rockies,
according to the letter.

"Because of these significant shortcomings with the draft rule we request
that FWS terminate the reclassification process. We understand the
significance of our request. However, in the draft the FWS defines
details concerning wolf recovery in the western U.S. that do not adhere to
relevant biological or legal standards," the scientists' letter reads.
"Consequently, a final rule based on the draft will result in substantial
litigation, diminish the significant progress with wolf recovery in the
Great Lakes region and the northern Rockies, imply to many observers that
the Rule is motivated by politics rather than science, and undermine the
credibility of the Endangered Species Act and the Service's ability to
implement the Act in an honest and objective manner."

Signers of the letter included many of the continent's most prominent
wildlife biologists, ecologists, conservation biologists, population
biologists, sociologists, and environmental scientists, including Dr. Paul
Ehrlich of Stanford University, Dr. Stuart Pimm of Columbia University,
Dr. Michael Soulé of the University of California at Santa Cruz, Dr. John
Terborgh of Duke University and Dr. David Inouye of the University of
Maryland. A copy of the letter and list of signers follows this release.

"Secretary Norton wants to back away from the job of wolf recovery before
the job's finished," said Dr. Mark Shaffer, senior vice president for
programs at Defenders of Wildlife. "No one is more anxious to see
successful wolf recovery than the signers of this letter and the
conservation groups that have invested years in the project, but for FWS
to pull the plug prematurely will undo the progress we've made and delay
true recovery, perhaps for decades."

A core concern of the scientists signing the letter is that the draft rule
would eliminate prospects of wolf recovery in vast areas of prime habitat
outside of the Great Lakes and northern Rockies. The proposed rule
"overlooks or abrogates scientific and legal principles including the
FWS's affirmative responsibility to restore gray wolf populations to
'significant gaps' within the species' historic range that are currently
unoccupied, but where restoration remains feasible."

"Scientists have concluded that top predators, notably the gray wolf, are
absolutely essential for long-term maintenance of the balance of nature
and therefore the long-term maintenance of biodiversity," noted Mike
Phillips, executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund.

The FWS proposal is coming under fire from all sides, including a letter
from fish and wildlife agencies in five different states expressing
serious concerns about the draft rule.

"Politics rather than science seems to be driving the department on this
issue, but it seems to be driving them straight into a brick wall," said
Jen Callahan, Rocky Mountain director of the Wildlands Project.


ATTACHMENTS FOLLOW:


Secretary Gale Norton, DOI
1849 C St. NW
Washington, DC 20240

May 29, 2002

Dear Secretary Norton:

We are writing to express our concern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service's œProposal to Reclassify and Remove the Gray Wolf From the List
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in Portions of the Conterminous
United States; Proposal to Establish Three Special Regulations for
Threatened Gray Wolves; Proposed Rule (50 CFR Part 17 pp. 43450-43496)
that was released on July 13, 2000. As scientists (wildlife biologists,
ecologists, conservation biologists, population biologists, sociologists,
and environmental scientists) we are familiar with the Endangered Species
Act and conservation of imperiled large carnivores. We believe that the
proposed rule overlooks or abrogates scientific and legal principles
including the FWS's affirmative responsibilities under the ESA to restore
gray wolf populations to "significant gaps" within the species' historic
range that are currently unoccupied, but where restoration remains
feasible.

Feasibility studies have identified areas with habitat capable of
sustaining populations of wolves in the Northeast (New York, Maine,
Vermont, New Hampshire - Harrison and Chapin 1997, Mladenhoff et al.);
Colorado (Bennett 1994, Martin et al. 2000, Carroll et al. in review);
portions of California and Oregon (Carroll et al. 2001); and Washington
(Laufer and Jenkins 1989, Dietz 1993, Hosack 1997, Ratti et al. 1999,
Gaines et al. 2000). Similar studies are under way for northern Arizona
(Sneed 2000), northern Utah, southeastern Idaho, southwestern and central
Wyoming, and southeastern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and the northern
portion of Mexico (Carroll et al. 2002). Inexplicably the FWS proposal
intends to do nothing to pursue additional wolf restoration opportunities.

While unquestionable progress has been made towards wolf recovery in the
lower 48 states for which the FWS should be commended, the proposed rule
contains some major flaws that depart significantly from the letter and
spirit of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), agency policies and
regulations, the principles of conservation biology, and even from an
important observation articulated by the FWS in the proposal:

...we [FWS] have identified geographic areas where wolf
recovery is occurring or is feasible, and will focus recovery
efforts on those geographic entities, regardless of the
subspecies affiliation of current or historic gray wolves in those
areas. We recognize the benefits to the species of focusing
recovery efforts across a large expanse of the species' range
in order to recover and retain as much of the remaining
genetic variation as is feasible. This approach will promote
the recovery of the gray wolf throughout representative areas
of their historic range in the conterminous 48 States
(65 Fed. Reg. 43451-43452, July 13, 2000).

It is also important for the FWS to acknowledge the role that top
predators such as the gray wolf have in maintaining the health of
ecosystems. Terborgh et al. (1999) concluded that top predators were
essential for long-term maintenance of biodiversity and recommended that
their reestablishment in areas where they had been extirpated be given
high priority. This accepted scientific opinion could help the FWS
fulfill the leading purpose of the ESA through wolf conservation, namely
"to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species
and threatened species depend may be conserved ..." 16 U.S.C. § 1531(b).

Not having wolves in an ecosystem leaves the top predator niche filled by
mesopredators. Mesopredators, when they are occupying the highest trophic
level, can be responsible for decreased biodiversity because they tend to
prey on a wide variety of smaller animals. Wolves will also increase the
amount of available carrion in an ecosystem with potentially positive
effects for scavenger species such as bear, foxes, weasels, and raptors
(Crabtree and Sheldon 1999). There is ample evidence that highly
interactive carnivores like the wolf perform other critical ecological
functions; without them ecosystems tend to become simplified (lose
species), are degraded (failure to recruit forest trees), or even lose
entire habitats (such as beaver pond wetlands). Ecological principles as
well as demographic goals should guide recovery decisions.

Because of these significant shortcomings with the draft rule we request
that FWS terminate the reclassification process. We understand the
significance of our request. However, in the draft the FWS defines details
concerning wolf recovery in the western U.S. that do not adhere to
relevant biological or legal standards. Consequently, a final rule based
on the draft will result in substantial litigation, diminish the
significant progress with wolf recovery in the Great Lakes region and the
northern Rockies, imply to many observers that the Rule is motivated by
politics rather than science, and undermine the credibility of the
Endangered Species Act and the Service's ability to implement the Act in
an honest and objective manner.

Because FWS has long been engaged in the rule-making process, ex parte
concerns have prevented effective collaboration with state agencies,
conservation NGOs, and the academic community. By withdrawing that portion
of the rule specific to the western U.S. and continuing with recovery
efforts specific for the northeast, the FWS will create an opportunity to
collaborate with informed and affected parties to develop a strategy that
protects wolves,provides for delisting where appropriate, and advances
restoration to suitable but unoccupied habitat. This will ensure that
eventually the species is recovered throughout a significant portion of
its historic range, necessary to maximize the species' long-term prospects
for survival.

We look forward to hearing from you concerning this matter. We would
welcome an opportunity to discuss our concerns with your further.In this
regard, we would be happy to help organize an informal workshop or meeting
with you or your staff.

Sincerely,
See attached list of scientists

cc: Steve Williams, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Gary Frazer, Assistant Director for Ecological Services, USFWS
Additional copies to USFWS personnel via e-mail: Ron Refsnider, Ed
Bangs, Brian Kelly, Dale Hall, Ralph Morgenweck, and Jim Tate


SIGNATURES:
1. Sean Anderson, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow Center for Conservation
Biology Department of Biological Sciences Stanford University

2. John J. Beecham, Ph.D. Sr. Conservation Zoologist Wildlife
Conservation Society

3. Paul Beier, Ph.D. Professor, Wildl. Ecol. and Cons. Biol. School of
Forestry Northern Arizona University

4. Jim Catlin, Ph.D. Project Coordinator Wild Utah Project

5. Tim W. Clark, Ph.D. Adjunct Professor, Wildlife Biology and Policy
Yale School of Forestry and Environ. Studies

6. Kevin Crooks, Ph.D. Department of Wildlife Ecology University of
Wisconsin - Madison

7. Paul K. Dayton, Ph.D. Scripps Institution of Oceanography

8. James Dietz, Ph.D. Conservation Biologist University of Maryland

9. Barbara L. Dugelby, Ph.D. Ecologist

10. Paul R. Ehrlich, Ph.D. Bing Professor of Population Studies President, Center for Cons. Biology Stanford University

11. James A. Estes, Ph.D. Research Scientist, USGS

12. Chris Fagan, M.Sc. Director , ParksWatch

13. Nina Fascione, M.A. Director of Carnivore Conservation Defenders of
Wildlife

14. Curtis Freese, Ph.D. Director, Northern High Plains Ecoregion World
Wildlife Fund

15. Ed Grumbine, Ph.D. University of California, Santa Cruz.

16. Hanne S. Hansen, Ph.D. Professor Animal Nutrition and Physiology

17. David W. Inouye, Ph.D. Director, Graduate Program Sustainable Development and Cons. Biol. University of Maryland

18. James R. Karr, Ph.D. Professor University of Washington

19. Renata Leite, Ph.D. Research Associate Center for Tropical
Conservation

20. Rurik List, Ph.D. Instituto de Ecología UNAM

21. Gary Luck, Ph.D. Center for Conservation Biology Stanford University

22. Carlos Martínez del Rio, Ph.D. Department of Zoology and Physiology University of Wyoming

23. Jennifer MB Manson, M.A. Administrative Assistant Center for Conservation Biology

24. Gary K. Meffe, Ph.D. Editor-in-Chief, Conservation Biology Adjunct Professor, University of Florida.

25. Brian Miller, Ph.D. Coordinator of Conservation Biology Denver Zoological Foundation

26. William Newmark, Ph.D. Research Curator Utah Museum of Natural History

27. Elliott A. Norse, Ph.D. President Marine Conservation Biology Institute

28. Barry R. Noon, Ph.D. Professor Dept. of Fishery and Wildlife Biology. Colorado State University

29. Reed Noss, Ph.D. Chief Scientist Wildlands Project

30. Ronald M. Nowak, Ph.D. Mammalogist

31. David R. Parsons, M.Sc. Wildlife Biologist Former Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator

32. Paul C. Paquet, Ph.D. Faculty of Environmental Design University of Calgary Calgary, AB

33. Mike Phillips, M.Sc. Executive Director Turner Endangered Species Fund

34. Stuart Pimm, Ph.D. Professor of Conservation Biology Center for Environ. Res. and Conserv. Columbia University

35. Nigel Pitman, Ph.D. Research Associate Center for Tropical Conservation

36. G. Carleton Ray, Ph.D. Research Professor of Environ. Sciences University of Virginia

37. Richard P. Reading, Ph.D. Director of Conservation Biology Denver Zoological Foundation

38. Terry L. Root, Ph.D. Senior Fellow

39. Gary W. Roemer, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Dept. of Fishery and Wildlife Sciences New Mexico State University

40. Paul Sneed, Ph.D. Environmental Studies Core Faculty Master of Arts Program Prescott College

41. Mark Shaffer, Ph.D. Senior VP for Programs Defenders of Wildlife

42. Michael Soulé, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus University of California, Santa Cruz

43. Martin E. Smith, M.Sc. Carnivore Biologist Defenders of Wildlife

44. Peter Stacey, Ph.D. Research Professor University of New Mexico

45. John Terborgh, Ph.D. James B. Duke Professor Nicholas School of the
Environment & the Center for Tropical Conservation Duke University

46. Stephen C. Torbit,Ph.D. Senior Scientist National Wildlife Federation


47. John A. Vucetich, Ph.D. Research Assistant Professor School of Forestry, Michigan Technological University

48. Robert K. Wayne, Ph.D Professor, Editor, Animal Conservation

###

On the other hand . . .

June 1, 2002. Federal official: Wolf recovery 'a great success story.' By Tom Laceky of the Associated Press.
 


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