Thursday, March 16, 2006

Gray wolf to lose protection of Endangered Species Act

The population of 4,000 gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan is considered stable.

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune

Interior Secretary Gale Norton is expected to announce today a plan to remove the gray wolf in Minnesota from protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and return its management to the Department of Natural Resources.
Wolves in Wisconsin and Michigan likely will be removed from the ESA also, under the new federal plan.

An earlier attempt by the federal government to reclassify the gray wolf throughout much of the nation as threatened instead of endangered, and to de-list the wolf altogether from protection in some states, was thrown out by federal courts in Vermont and Oregon.

Minnesota has about 3,000 gray wolves, and another 1,000 roam Wisconsin and Michigan. The populations are considered healthy, stable and, in some areas, growing.

In its earlier wolf management plan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan were part of a region that included states stretching to the Eastern seaboard. A U.S. judge in Oregon ruled last year that the federal government couldn't lump regions where wolves had recovered, such as Minnesota, with areas such as New York, where wolves existed centuries ago but essentially do not today.

"Interior Secretary Gale Norton tried to gerrymander the entire contiguous 48 states so that wolves in a few areas would make up for the absence of wolves in much larger regions," U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Jones in Portland ruled. "Now, instead of drawing lines on the map based on political considerations, any future lines must be based on science."

Norton is expected to announce today that Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan make up the core of a Great Lakes wolf management region much smaller than the one dismissed by the courts.

International wolf expert L. David Mech of the Twin Cities said Wednesday that the federal government's earlier plan was not ill-conceived.

"The court's ruling against the plan has broad implications for the Endangered Species Act," Mech said. "The service for about 30 years has considered that a species doesn't have to be recovered throughout its historical range to be recovered."

Thus the 4,000 wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan should qualify as a recovered population in the eastern United States.

"The point of the Endangered Species Act is to get a population recovered so it's not going to go extinct, not necessarily to have that population exist wherever it once did."

The wolf plan won't take effect for at least a year. Whatever the plan's details, observers say, court challenges are possible, if not probable.

The Legislature in 2001 anticipated control of Minnesota wolves would someday return to the state and enacted a wolf management plan that protects wolves here while attempting to minimize possible harm to livestock.

  • Minneapolis Star Tribune

    Post a Comment

    << Home