On the heels of legislation passed last month with the support of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) as part of the FY 2011 budget agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced this week that it is lifting Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for 5,500 grey wolves in eight states in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes and has published a proposed rule to remove gray wolves from ESA designation in the Western Great Lakes.
"Like other iconic species such as the whooping crane, the brown pelican, and the bald eagle, the recovery of the gray wolf is another success story of the Endangered Species Act," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "The gray wolf's biological recovery reflects years of work by scientists, wildlife managers, and our state, tribal, and stakeholder partners to bring wolf populations back to healthy levels."
The budget rider introduced by CSC member Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho and CSC Senate Co-Chair, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, directed the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the latest (2009) ruling declaring the wolf recovered and to return wolf management to state agencies in Montana and Idaho, as well as portions of Utah, Washington and Oregon.
Gray wolves will remain listed under the ESA in Wyoming, although the USFWS is working closely with that state's wildlife biologists to develop a management plan that would allow wolves within the state to be removed from ESA protection. The USFWS and state wildlife managers will monitor wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains and gather population data for at least five years under a post-delisting monitoring plan previously approved by the USFWS.
"This is a great first step and we can thank the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus for getting all of this moving," said Jeff Crane, President of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation."However, we are still working diligently within the United States Congress to transfer management of wolves to state wildlife managers where this species has met recovery goals."
The USFWS has published a proposed rule to remove gray wolves from ESA designation in the Western Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, and portions of neighboring states because wolves have recovered in this region as well and no longer require ESA protection.
"Gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes are recovered and no longer warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act," said USFWS Acting Director Rowan Gould. "Under this proposed rule, which takes into account the latest taxonomic information about the species, we will return management of gray wolves in the Great Lakes to state wildlife professionals. We are confident that wolves will continue to thrive under the approved state management plans."
The USFWS would revise the range of the gray wolf by removing all or parts of 29 eastern states due to newer taxonomic information indicating that the gray wolf did not historically occur in those states as part of the proposed rule. USFWS is also beginning reviews of gray wolves statue in the Pacific Northwest and Southwest to determine the appropriate entity and listing status in those areas, and also seeking information on a newly-recognized species, the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon), throughout its range in the United States and Canada. The USFWS is seeking public comment as part of this process.
The proposed rule to remove wolves in the Western Great Lakes from the ESA, as well as the final rule reinstating the 2009 final delisting rule for the Northern Rocky Mountain DPS as directed by the 2011 Full-Year Appropriations Act was published in the Federal Register on May 5, 2011. The final rule for wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain DPS is effective immediately. Sportsmen can view the proposed rule for the Western Great Lakes area HERE.
The sportsmen's community can submit written comments on the proposed rule for wolves in the Western Great Lakes by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: http://www.regulations.gov  and follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-R3-ES-2011-0029]. Sportsmen can also utilize U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. [FWS-R3-ES-2011-0029]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. Comments must be received on or before July 5, 2011 and the USFWS will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov .
Public hearings for the proposed removal of wolves in the Western Great Lakes and proposed removal of eastern states from the gray wolf listing will be held May 18 in Ashland, Wisconsin, and on June 8 in Augusta, Maine. More information on the hearings will be available at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/