Monday, October 3, 2016

Why wolves need federal protections

MINNETONKA, Minn.—A recent Forum Communications column questioned wolf population numbers and the value of wolf protections ("The Minnesota wolf saga: Numbers still don't add up," Aug. 24.)
The gray wolf in Minnesota and the western Great Lakes region was returned to protected status under the Endangered Species Act in a federal court ruling in 2014. While this paused wolf trophy hunting in Minnesota, it's not the end of the story.

Federal legislation that will reverse this court ruling now is concealed in several bills under consideration by Congress. If these bills are passed, federal protections will be abolished for the wolf.
This will open the wolf to state-sanctioned recreational "trophy" hunts — as well as baiting, cruel snaring and trapping. The legislative language also eliminates any judicial review of this delisting.

This effectively leaves the gray wolf without the possibility of federal protections. Any future listing would have to start from the beginning, which would be a near impossible feat. Having "no judicial review" allows Congress to overturn specific judicial rulings and may even be unconstitutional.

If the wolf is delisted now, it's a formula for extinction.

The wolf needs protection because we know they don't have a history of value. They have a history of persecution, which caused their numbers to drop so low that we nearly lost all of them. Minnesota had the last few hundred gray wolves when they were protected by the Endangered Species Act in 1974. The same entities that opposed protecting the wolf then, are working to remove protections and restart the hunts now.

For the wolf to even survive in the wild, their genetic diversity must persevere and grow. This is important to maintain the species for now and for future generations.

The wolf population already has been culled repeatedly to a level of unknown—but likely significantly lower—genetic diversity. Mankind cannot know which wolf has the genes needed to survive a disease or has the qualities that let the species stay strong in the face of the many stresses to their survival, including indiscriminate recreational killing.

Recent history has shown that when federal protection is removed, states immediately implement wolf hunts. These unpopular, unnecessary and short-sighted trophy hunts have nothing to do with scientific or ethical principles or the popular will. Wolf hunts were held each year following delisting, even though 79 percent of participants said "no" to wolf hunting in a survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

And in a poll conducted by a nationally recognized company, 79 percent of Minnesota voters agreed that wolves should be protected for future generations.

The long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota, and throughout the country, depends on federal protections. State agencies continue to cater to a few narrow but influential entities. The Minnesota DNR has stated such when they catered to their "primary clients" (hunters, trappers and ranchers) and authorized a wolf trophy hunt the same year wolves lost federal protections in 2012.

Howling For Wolves continues to work to keep the wolf federally protected with actions in Washington and locally. Many federal lawmakers have committed to working on behalf of the wolf because they know the value of a healthy wolf population.

Wolves also are important to our state's ecology. They are vital for healthy forests and streams. Other species need the wolf to keep them healthy, too. Most people would find it ironic that the large deer bucks that hunters are so proud of need the wolf.

When ecosystems lose their apex predators, prey species (deer) become dwarfed.
Our state's ecology, our state's heritage and our state's people need the wolf for future generations. For now, that means federal protection for the wolf must continue until adequate and competent plans for recovery are in place.

Dr. Hackett is a forensic psychiatrist and the founder of the advocacy group Howling for Wolves.


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