Sunday, December 20, 2015

Great Lakes Wolf News: Highlights of 2015 by WODC



This year in review for the Great Lakes wolf has seen it all from being federally protected, to threats of delisting, and anti- wolf riders being rejected. The year 2015 started out on a positive note for wolf advocates, because a federal Judge had ordered the Great Lakes Wolf back on the ESA on December 19, 2014. This positive news didn’t last long and wolf advocates began to brace themselves against the possibility that the Great Lakes wolf could be delisted at any given moment.  Anti-wolf factions were angered by the decision that returned the wolf back under federal protections. These anti-wolf factions began to work with special interests groups to undermine the endangered species act by attaching riders on legislation that would prevent any judicial review and return wolves back into the hands of states. Thus began the battle to save the great Lakes wolf.

IMG_2654On Friday December 19, 2014, the news broke that Great Lakes wolves were returned to the Federal Endangered Species Act immediately.

Several organizations challenged a rule that had removed the Great Lakes wolf from the Endangered Species Act. The humane society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, Help Our Wolves Live, Friends of Animals and their Environment, and Born Free USA were the organizations that successfully sued to have the Great Lakes wolf put back on the ESA. The following is a press release from HSUS:

“Sport hunting and trapping of wolves in the Great Lakes region must end immediately, a federal District Court has ruled. The court overturned a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.” Citation: HSUS
 
The following is excerpts from the ruling:

“In its 111-page ruling, the court chided the USFWS for failing to explain why it ignored the potential for further recovery of wolves into areas of its historic range that remain viable habitat for the species. The court also noted that the USFWS has failed to explain how the “virtually unregulated” killing of wolves by states in the Great Lakes region does not constitute a continued threat to the species.”  Citation: HSUS
 
Young wolf killed in Wisconsin’s third wolf hunt. Wisconsin is the only state that allows unregulated wolf hound hunting.

Great Lakes states were not willing to protect an endangered species. The following are some examples of unregulated sport hunting of wolves that took place while they were off the ESA list.

1. Wisconsin rushed to hunt wolves with the aid of hound hunting dogs.  Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.” Citation: Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s blog, ‘Fact sheet’
2. Minnesota used snares to kill wolves. Can it get any more violent? Wolves were killed in Minnesota using these snare traps. Minnesota hunting regulations MDNR use of snare for trapping begins. Citation: WODCW blog
 
In other news, Michigan citizens worked hard to overturn any and all bids to hunt wolves and to keep wolves protected. For more information on this fight visit Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.
Returning wolves to the ESA was the best news of the year for wolf advocates in the Great Lakes region.  Shortly after this good news broke, anti-wolf legislators began designing legislation calling for the delisting of wolves without any judicial review. In response to this anti-wolf legislation, several pro wolf organizations called for a compromise:

“… a petition from 22  regional and national conservation and wolf advocacy organizations, to keep protections in place – asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify wolves from “endangered” to “threatened.” The proposal would ensure federal oversight of wolves, encourage the development of a national recovery plan, and keep funding in place for wolf recovery while permitting states to address specific wolf conflicts.” Citation:  WODCW blog
 
The fight to keep Wolves on the endangered species list continued in June, as the US Fish and Wildlife Service denied the threatened status for the gray wolf.  Science was ignored by Wisconsin and Minnesota and trophy hunting became the only acceptable tool used to manage the Great Lakes wolf.  It was no wonder a federal judge ordered them back on the ESA on December 19th after three years of unregulated trophy hunting in the Great Lakes region. 

In Wisconsin news, it was determined that a trophy hunt on wolves did not increase tolerance of wolves and that state residents needed wolf education in order to increase their tolerance of wolves.
In addition, Scientists began to speak out against trophy hunts on wolves:

“There was a notion held widely in the scientific literature and said at public meetings that a public hunting season would increase acceptance of wolves,” says Adrian Treves, professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and co-author of the study. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources cited “maintaining social tolerance” as a goal of the wolf harvest in a statement in 2013… While wolf hunting is again illegal — the animals were relisted as a federally endangered species in 2014 — study lead author Jamie Hogberg, a researcher at the Nelson Institute, suggests policymakers and wildlife managers might consider other ways to improve social tolerance and reduce conflict between the animals and people going forward.” Citation: Tolerance of wolves in Wisconsin continues to decline, UW-Madison news.

In an attempt to satisfy anti-wolf special interests, several members of congress began to push legislation to delist the Great Lakes wolf:

“Johnson’s bill would mirror H.R. 884, a bill introduced last month by U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble that would again remove wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan from the Endangered Species List. The bills would override a December federal court ruling that outlawed wolf hunts. Cited from Wisconsin Public Radio, Sen. Johnson Plans To Introduce Bill Delisting Wolf Under Endangered Species Act, Legislation Would Mirror Rep. Ribble’s Bill In House,” Friday, March 6, 2015, Glen Moberg

Conditions worsened for the Great Lakes wolf, as anti-wolf legislation took the form of a rider attached to a federal budget that called to delist wolves without any judicial review. Great Lakes wolf advocates rushed to defend the endangered species Act from being undermined. Advocates used tweetstorms, letter writing, and email campaigns to stop anti-wolf legislation.
    

The most recent news on the delisting question took place in November 2015…

However, a greater debate broke out between scientists. There were many who advocated delisting, but there were even more who did not believe wolves should be delisted. The following is an account of the pro-wolf listing scientists:

“In recent weeks, scientists and researchers have been speaking up. Adrian Treves, a University of Wisconsin-Madison environmental studies professor, has co-authored a paper in the journal Biological Reviews that says by allowing hunters to shoot and trap wolves, Wisconsin legislators violated the Public Trust Doctrine that says governments must maintain natural resources for the use of current and future generations of the general public… This week, Treves joined 28 other scientists in arguing that Endangered Species Act protection for the wolves should be kept. Treves contends a different group of scientists that released a pro-delisting letter last week misunderstood the finer points of law, public attitudes and scientific evidence.”  Citation: http://bit.ly/21h1be4

The following information concerns scientists who asked that wolves be delisted:
“Former DNR wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven, now coordinator of the Timber Wolf Alliance at Northland College in Ashland, said the group has a message for Congress: “Just want to let them know that many of us feel wolves have recovered and they should be a state-managed species at this point,” Wydeven said.”  Citation: http://bit.ly/21h1be4

I even weighed in on the debate in the same post…

“Various advocates are lining up behind the two groups of scientists. Rachel Tilseth, of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, disagreed with Wydeven…”Can states be trusted to manage wolves? I think not, and many other scientists agree that individual states cannot be trusted,” Tilseth said.” 

And also in my own blog…

Wolves must remain under federal protection until individual states in the Great Lakes, can learn how to protect an iconic species. Scientists have just begun to understand how essential wolves are to maintaining healthy ecosystems. Hunting wolves as a management tool only serves special interest groups bent on eradication. Citation: WODCW blog

Since the Great Lakes wolves were returned to the endangered Species Act on December, 19, 2014, Washington DC has issued a steady stream of anti-wolf legislation.  Keeping the Great Lakes wolf under federal protection has been the biggest battle of the year. 

  A welcomed bit of hope for the wolf came out in April 2015 in the form of a documentary, Medicine of the Wolf, a film made in Minnesota. This film features wolf advocates, such as renowned National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg and Michigan Scientist John Vucetich.  This film was produced and directed by Julia Huffman.  I recommend you purchase this film available for sale now.  The following link will take you to the film’s website: http://bit.ly/1fufXDP

At last, a victory came for the Great Lakes wolves, almost one year after they were ordered back under federal protections. The rider ordering the delisting of our wolves was removed from the omnibus budget bill:

 “A proposal that would have taken gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region and Wyoming off the endangered list did not make it into a massive year-end congressional tax and spending package, an omission that surprised its backers but was welcomed Wednesday by groups that support maintaining federal protections for the predators… Cooler heads prevailed in Congress,” said Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. He said a letter written by Sens. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Barbara Boxer, D-California, and signed by 23 other senators including Gary Peters, D-Michigan, helped make the difference. Citation: WODCW blog
 
Although this is good news for Great Lakes wolves, they are not out of the woods yet; read on: 

“The Obama administration, Michigan, Wisconsin and Wyoming are appealing the two decisions. Minnesota is not formally a party to the Midwest case, but the state attorney general’s office filed an amicus brief Tuesday supporting a reversal.” The brief states that Minnesota’s wolf management plan will ensure the animals continue to thrive in the state and that Minnesota’s wolf population and range have expanded to the point of saturating the habitat in the state since the animals went on the endangered list in 1973, thus creating human-wolf conflict that is unique in its cost and prevalence. Citation: http://goo.gl/y7mVNq

There are still several anti-wolf bills in congress that would delist the wolf in the Great Lakes region, but at the end of this year, the Great Lakes wolf is still federally protected by the endangered species act. The question I ask for the coming year is this: will the president and congress protect iconic and endangered species? We must constantly remind both that they should do exactly that.

For more information on how to help keep the Great Lakes wolf listed, click on the following links: