Tricia Cook’s recent commentary (“Sun setting on wolf recovery,” Herald, Nov. 21) offered a glimmer of hope because it presented an honest, accurate case for why we still need Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves, which to date have recovered to only about 5 percent of their historic range in the United States.
As Cook detailed, the facts do not support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to drop federal protections for most gray wolves in the lower 48. Nor do they support the agency’s paltry, livestock industry-pandering, efforts to pretend they’re trying to recover Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest, where years of “recovery” efforts have resulted in only about 75 wolves living in the wild.
As our top scientists concur, wolves have in no way recovered to sustainable populations in this country. The fact that politically driven policymakers are pretending wolves have recovered is not a reflection of the best-available science but of the power of the livestock and sport-hunting industries.
As is clear in Rocky Mountain and Midwest states where wolves already have lost protections, state wildlife agencies are configured to run hunting seasons, not animal recovery programs. As a result, during the last two years, more than 2,000 wolves have been killed in state-sanctioned hunting and trapping seasons.
The arbitrary wolf-management decisions being made by state wildlife managers remind us of exactly why Congress passed the Endangered Species Act by almost unanimous vote 40 years ago next month.
They realized that species do not live in states, but in ecosystems, and that the only way to ensure sustainable populations was to establish federal control. That decision created one of the world’s most successful conservation laws. To date, the Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species it protects and put many on the road to recovery.
The act’s success recovering wolves is precisely why those opposed to wolves have worked so hard to get them delisted. Their plan is clear – get rid of Endangered Species Act protections, then get rid of all the wolves.