For Immediate Release, January 5, 2016
Endangered Species Protection Denied to Alaska's Alexander Archipelago Wolf
Threatened by Hunting and Logging, Alaska's Rare Wolf Remains Unprotected
Despite 75 Percent Decline on Prince of Wales Island
“We are deeply disappointed by this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision, which will allow the Tongass National Forest timber program to continue to liquidate the magnificent old-growth forests of southeast Alaska, needed by the wolf and its prey,” said Larry Edwards, Greenpeace forest campaigner and longtime resident of the region. “There’s no question that the continued existence of Alexander Archipelago wolf populations in southeast Alaska is threatened.”
Alexander Archipelago wolves den in the root systems of very large trees and hunt mostly Sitka black-tailed deer, which are also dependent on high-quality old forests, especially for winter survival. A long history of clearcut logging on the Tongass National Forest, private and state-owned lands has devastated much of the wolf’s habitat on the islands of southeast Alaska. In particular, the Tongass is currently logging 6,000 acres of old-growth forest in the Big Thorne timber sale, the biggest old-growth sale in more than 20 years.
“For too long, the old-growth forests of southeast Alaska have been a sacrifice zone for the timber industry,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is harming the Alexander Archipelago wolf, Queen Charlotte goshawk, Sitka black-tailed deer and a host of other plants and animals unique to the old-growth forest of southeast Alaska.”
Logging on the Tongass brings new roads, making wolves vulnerable to hunting and trapping. As many as half the wolves killed on the Tongass are killed illegally, and hunting and trapping are occurring at unsustainable levels in some areas. Despite scientific evidence showing that Alexander Archipelago wolf populations will not survive in areas with high road density, the Forest Service continues to build new logging roads in the Tongass. Road density is particularly an urgent concern on heavily fragmented Prince of Wales Island and neighboring islands.
Despite a 75 percent decline of wolves on Prince of Wales since the 1990s and the present small size of the population, the state of Alaska allowed a wolf hunt on the island during the fall of 2015. The hunt allowed the killing of nine wolves out of the estimated population of just 89 — which could actually be as low as 50 individuals. This was in addition to the demonstrated high level of poaching.
“The Prince of Wales population of Alexander Archipelago wolves is obviously very fragile and should have been protected by the Federal Government,” said Edwards.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.