June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove gray wolves
from the endangered species list despite wolves occupying only about 5
percent of their historic range. The service reminds us that the
Endangered Species Act was not intended to provide indefinite life
support. This is certainly true, and there might have been a compelling
case for delisting today had the science supported it and had wolves
reached a fuller stage of recovery.
that hasn’t happened. In fact, three states in our Northern Rockies,
already charged with wolf management, have unleashed an intense and
partisan desire to reduce wolf numbers to the barest minimum allowable.
Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming now have recreational hunting and trapping
seasons, and in the past two years nearly 1,200 wolves have been killed.
Well-known and well-loved wolves from Yellowstone National Park were
killed, including the cherished Lamar Canyon pack’s alpha female. This
degree of backlash questions whether our society has advanced past
treating predators as a disposable commodity, a mindset that nearly
wiped out wolves by the early 1900s.
is an alternative path: one that recognizes that the majority of
Americans support wolves as part of our wilderness and heritage, looks
beyond managing wolves on the basis of population numbers along,
recognizes the inherent value of wolves to exist in the wild as nature
intended, and focuses on solutions to conflicts with livestock, such as
nonlethal predator deterrents.
is currently developing a wolf management plan and reviewing whether to
protect wolves under state law in preparation for a future wolf
population. Californians have a chance to lead the way and demonstrate
how to afford the wolf the value it deserves, work together to reduce
conflicts, and hopefully one day celebrate the recovery of wolves in our
The mission is far
from accomplished. Delisting now is a political decision defying the
majority’s desire for a more complete, science-based recovery of gray
wolves. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to protect gray
wolves and maintain their rightful place on our wild landscape.
Valentino is director of California Wolf Recovery.