Acting Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt said Wednesday that his agency wants to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List.
Bernhardt made the announcement at a wildlife management conference in Denver, but the proposed delisting has not yet been posted to the federal register.
Wolves have made a strong comeback since first being reintroduced in some western states in the 1990s, but their populations are still fledgling in portions of this historic habitat. The Northern Rocky Mountain population of wolves were delisted in Idaho and Montana in 2011, and their management was turned over to those states. That would be the same scenario across the country, if wolves are delisted nationwide.
Ranching advocates are cheering the decision. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association issued a statement Wednesday, calling the gray wolf’s recovery a “conservation success story.”
“When the federal government collaborates with state wildlife officials and local land managers, it enhances our ability to protect the wildlife and ecosystems that we all cherish,” the statement reads. “This is exactly how the Endangered Species Act is supposed to work.”
But environmental groups say there are not enough established wolf packs in states like California and Colorado to warrant the delisting.
“...wolves are still absent from much of their historic range where there is suitable habitat,” says Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “The work of recovering this iconic species is not done and we will vigorously oppose this action.”
Gavin Shire is with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. He says the public will still have the chance to comment on the potential delisting.
“At the time which we send this to the federal register, we’ll open up a public comment period so everybody will have the opportunity to weigh in on this decision,” says Shire. “We thoroughly and scientifically research our decisions before we make them, but there’s always the possibility that we missed something so that’s why we solicit public feedback.”
Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.
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