A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to delist gray wolves in the rest of the Lower 48 will go out for comment tomorrow when it is officially posted on the Federal Register.
“While wolves in the gray wolf entity currently occupy only a portion of wolf historical range, the best available information indicates that the gray wolf entity is recovered and is not now, nor likely in the foreseeable future, to be negatively affected by past, current, and potential future threats such that the entity is in danger of extinction,” reads a portion of the 158-page document now available for previewing.
USFWS says that species don’t have to be recovered throughout their former range — essentially impossible with all the development since their large-scale extirpation — to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act, but that it would continue to monitor populations for five years, like it did with the Northern Rockies wolves and which have continued to thrive under state management.
The agency says that delisting will let it focus on species that still need help.
“Every species kept on the Endangered Species List beyond its point of recovery takes valuable resources away from those species still in need of the act’s protections,” USFWS said in a press release officially announcing the proposal.
Word first came out last week from Department of Interior Acting Secretary David Bernhardt that it was pending.
There are now more than 6,000 wolves in the Lower 48, primarily in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes, but those populations are spreading out.
Just last week it became clear that there was likely a wolf or wolves within miles of the Pacific in Southern Oregon after state managers there reported one was probably to blame for a large-scale sheep depredation near Cape Blanco.
Gray wolves were delisted in Idaho, Montana and the eastern thirds of Oregon and Washington in 2011. This new proposal would extend that the western two-thirds of both states and elsewhere, if it is approved. A similar bid in 2013 was challenged in court and the effort was derailed, but quietly began again last June.
“Our deepest gratitude goes to all our conservation partners in this victory, particularly the states and tribes who are committed to wolf conservation and will continue this legacy forward,” said USFWS Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson in the press release.
ODFW and WDFW last week reiterated that they’re ready to take over management of gray wolves across their respective states. It would level the playing field, per se, in dealing with depredations, but would not mean an immediate free-fire zone as the species would remain under state protections for the time being.
Publication on the Federal Register starts a 60-day comment period.