Plan to delist gray wolf endangers other threatened species, researchers find
3 hours ago by Emily Caldwell
The federal government’s proposal to discontinue protection for the gray wolf across the United States could have the unintended consequence of endangering other species, researchers say.
As written, scientists assert, the proposed rule would set a precedent allowing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to declare habitat unsuitable for an endangered animal because a threat exists on the land – the exact opposite of the service’s mandate to impose regulations that reduce threats against imperiled species.
The FWS has “conflated threats with habitat suitability” by stating that U.S. land currently unoccupied by wolves – most of the country that historically served as wolf habitat – is now unsuitable because humans living in those regions won’t tolerate the animals, the lead scientist said. This claim runs counter to existing research, which the service did not cite in its explanation of the rule.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service is supposed to detail what the threats are and if they’re substantial enough, they’re supposed to list a species and put in place policies to mitigate the threats,” said Jeremy Bruskotter, associate professor in The Ohio State University’s School of Environment and Natural Resources and lead author of the paper.
“Here, they’re saying that they recognize the threat of human intolerance and instead of mitigating the threat, they’re just going to say the land is unsuitable.”
Were this rule to stand, he said, “Anytime the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds that something is in the way of a species’ recovery, they can just say the habitat is unsuitable for the species and disregard the threat altogether.”
FWS proposed removing the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of threatened and endangered species in June. The rule covers most of the continental United States where wolves historically existed, before being exterminated by people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Public comments closed Dec. 17, and will be analyzed and considered before the service issues a final rule.
The critique is published online in the journal Conservation Letters.
Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973. The act expanded on previous legislation by providing for the protection of any species in danger of or threatened with extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.