Tag Archives: gray wolves

USFWS Reviewing Status Of Still-listed Lower 48 Gray Wolves

It’s not just North Cascades grizzly reintroduction that federal wildlife overseers have begun working on again this year. They’re also putting in time on gray wolf delisting for the western Northwest and elsewhere, it appears.

A MEMBER OF CENTRAL WASHINGTON’S TEANAWAY PACK, WHICH ROAMS THE PART OF THE STATE WHERE WOLVES ARE STILL FEDERALLY LISTED, STANDS IN A FOREST. (BEN MALETZKE, WDFW)

Half a decade to the month after first proposing to declare wolves recovered across the rest of the contiguous United States, a process subsequently derailed through lawsuits, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “has begun reviewing the status of the species.”

That’s according to a brief two-paragraph statement emailed to Northwest Sportsman magazine Thursday afternoon by a spokesperson.

“Working closely with our federal, state, tribal and local partners, we will assess the currently listed gray wolf entities in the Lower 48 states using the best available scientific information,” it continues. “If appropriate, the Service will publish a proposal to revise the wolf’s status in the Federal Register by the end of the calendar year. Any proposal will follow a robust, transparent and open public process that will provide opportunity for public comment.”

ODFW’S LATEST WOLF PACK MAP DOESN’T SHOW THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE FEDERALLY DELISTED AND STILL-LISTED AREAS OF OREGON, BUT IT INCLUDES MUCH OF THE EASTERN THIRD OF THE STATE. THE RED LINE  (ODFW)

That could level the playing field, per se, in Washington and Oregon, where wildlife managers and livestock producers operate by different sets of rules depending on which side of a series of highways they’re on.

In spring 2011, Congress delisted wolves in each state’s eastern third — as well as all of Montana and Idaho and a portion of Utah — leaving management there up to WDFW and ODFW.

Meanwhile, federal protections continued in their western two-thirds, where lethal removal is not in the toolbox to deal with chronic depredations.

“Incompatibility between the Washington state management plan and the federal management plan creates a bureaucratic nightmare that leaves communities in Eastern Washington unable to defend themselves against increasing wolf attacks and livestock depredations,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Spokane) wrote to Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in a letter earlier this week calling on his agency to look at delisting wolves.

Regardless of the ranch’s or grazing allotment’s location, both states stress preventative measures to head off cattle and sheep conflicts.

WDFW’S LATEST PACK MAP SHOWS THE DEMARCATION BETWEEN WHERE WOLVES ARE MANAGED BY THE STATE AND UNDER FEDERAL PROTECTIONS, THE BLACK LINE RUNNING NORTH-SOUTH THROUGH EASTERN WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

Later in 2011, USFWS declared the species recovered in the western Great Lakes states.

And then in June 2013, with “gray wolves no longer (facing) the threat of extinction or (requiring) the protections of the Endangered Species Act,” according to then-Director Dan Ashe, the feds proposed delisting them throughout the rest of their range.

But progress stalled, and then came a Humane Society of the United States court case addressing Canis lupus in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Unfortunately, the delisting of wolves in the Western Great Lakes region was successfully overturned by the courts, which prevented the Service from moving forward with the full delisting proposal at that time,” the second part of the USFWS statement concludes.

Last summer, a federal appeals court decision yielded mixed results, but the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation saw positives, including “(undoing) a number of roadblocks thus providing a path forward.”

Over the years, Washington’s and Oregon’s wolf populations have more than doubled from 2013 levels, largely in the state-managed areas.

And now, USFWS’s big, long delisting pause appears to be over, which will excite some and make others fearful.

Oregon Cattlemen Threaten Lawsuit Over Wolf Delisting Review Lag; USFWS Points To Great Lakes Case

It’s been exactly four years to the day since federal managers proposed delisting gray wolves in western and central portions of Washington and Oregon, as well as across most of the country outside of the Northern Rockies.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the species had successfully recovered since its Endangered Species Act listing, and wanted to return management to the states and focus its work on Mexican wolves.

THE OREGON CATTLEMEN’S ASSOCIATION SAYS IT INTENDS TO SUE THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO COMPLETE ITS REVIEW PROPOSING THE DELISTING OF WOLVES IN WESTERN AND CENTRAL PORTIONS OF THE BEAVER STATE AS WELL AS ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY. (ODFW)

The June 7, 2013 announcement also launched a 90-day public comment period, with a final determination to be “made” the following year.

2014 was three years ago, and with no discernible results, last week the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association announced that it intends to sue USFWS for failing to follow through on the proposal.

According to a story today in the Capital Press, the organization voted to do so at its quarterly meeting.

Reports Katy Nesbit:

Todd Nash, the Cattlemen’s wolf committee chairman, said the absence of a completed analysis three years after U.S. Fish and Wildlife closed its public comment period regarding its environmental policy analysis to delist gray wolves from the endangered species list was one reason for the suit.

“They are legally bound to do that within one year and that’s the preface pressing forward with lawsuit,” Nash said.

The Press‘s story states that while Washington Cattlemen Association members were in also attendance at the quarterly, they were going to take joining the lawsuit back home to their board for more discussion.

So what’s going on with USFWS’s proposal?

It’s a question I’ve asked federal spokesmen on occasion over the years, and today one pointed towards a court case elsewhere in the country as the hold-up.

“Our proposal for delisting the gray wolf in the remainder of its range is predicated on the gray wolf populations in Wyoming and the Western Great Lakes being delisted,” says Sarah Levy. “We are currently waiting for a court decision on delisting wolves in the Western Great Lakes, which puts our larger delisting proposal on hold.”

Last month, under a headline reading “Appeals court holds key to future of wolves,” USA Today reported a ruling from a federal appeals court in Washington DC on the Great Lakes question was “expected soon.”

In March the same court upheld USFWS’s 2012 contention that wolves in Wyoming could be delisted, and that state took over management of the species as of April 26 of this year.

But the newspaper’s story says that the two cases are only similar at a very high level and focus on aspects of state management and federal process.

Time will tell.