March 3, 2009
President Obama's new Secretary of Interior revealed his true colors very early in his tenure. Newly appointed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he would follow the discredited path of the Bush Administration and remove the wolves in the Northern Rockies and Greater Yellowstone regions from the Endangered Species list. He was highly touted as being very amiable and a consensus builder. But his second act since being in office turns out to be very polarizing. This delisting paves the way for almost 1000 wolves to be killed under the deadly state management plans of Idaho and Montana. The wolves in Wyoming will remain a federally protected species because the state's law and management plans were not strong enough for USFWS. But wolf management will be turned over to state agencies in Montana and Idaho and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah, in addition to the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wolves elsewhere in the lower 48 states will remain on the endangered list.
A federal judge in Missoula, Mont., last year sided with the groups when they filed a lawsuit saying the animal's long-term survival remained at risk, particularly in Wyoming. Last year, when federal wolf protections were temporarily lifted in the region, more than 100 wolves were killed in just a matter of days. Regular wolf hunting seasons could begin as early as this fall in Idaho and Montana -- and Idaho Governor "Butch" Otter said again today that he still wants the first available hunting tag to shoot a wolf himself.
Lawsuits are certainly going to be filed and the fight will continue. The present wolf populations in these regions is very fragile, and the populations of their prey species is more than hearty. The indiscriminate killing of wolves will devastate the existing packs. The justification for this decision is still a mystery. Salazar said he had concluded that dropping the wolf from the list was justified by its strong comeback in the two regions, which together have a population of nearly 5,600 wolves. This shows a blatant lack of understanding of the real situation, and it indicates another example of politics getting in the way of science -- an activity Obama said he would not tolerate. The ESA says that a species can be considered recovered when its population and habitat are stable and viable to long-term sustainability. A mere 5600 wolves in an area that totals nearly 1,000,000 square miles certainly does not fit that criteria.