WASHINGTON (Sept. 4, 2013) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced today that it will not host any public hearings in Colorado, Oregon or Washington on their proposal to strip federal protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48. All three states are home to excellent, unoccupied wolf habitat and a strong base of support for continued wolf recovery, but the FWS will only hold hearings in Sacramento, Calif., Albuquerque, N.M., and Washington, D.C.
The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife:
“We are very disappointed to see the Obama administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service ignoring wolf supporters in the some of the nation’s best remaining unoccupied wolf habitat. The federal government is essentially turning its back on Americans who want to see thriving wolf populations restored to their states. Those who oppose the Service’s premature and short-sighted delisting proposal deserve a chance to voice their concerns. By excluding those voices, the Fish and Wildlife Service is effectively cutting off public debate about the future of wolves in Colorado and the Pacific Northwest.
“There is still much work to be done to ensure that wolves are able to return to western Colorado, northern California and Washington’s Olympic peninsula – places that have excellent habitat but no wolves. We need continued commitment from the federal government to ensure safe passage of wolves into these important areas. Now is not the time for the Obama administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our nation’s chief wildlife stewards, to give up on wolf recovery before the job is finished.”
Defenders has released an updated report titled “Places for Wolves” that identifies key areas where wolf recovery has not yet occurred. For example, some of the best remaining unoccupied habitat exists in western Colorado, northern California and Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where there are currently no known wolf populations. The report also outlines general conservation strategies that would facilitate wolf recovery across the country.
Further, a poll conducted by Peak Campaigns in Colorado earlier this year showed very strong support for wolf restoration in the state, including 72% who support protecting wolves that cross into Colorado from other states. Additional polling is being conducted this week to gauge support for wolf recovery in California, Oregon and Washington. Results will be available early next week.
On June 6, FWS released its proposed rule to strip federal protections for gray wolves across the entire lower 48, except for Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. If approved, the delisting proposal could preclude any further wolf recovery, especially in places like Colorado, Utah and California, where there are no known wolf populations. Nascent wolf populations in Oregon and Washington would be managed entirely by both those states with no assistance from the federal government and no federal backstop to prevent state wildlife agencies from significantly reducing wolf numbers in the future.
Read today’s notice in the federal register about the public hearings