The Bush administration is again proposing to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for the Northern Rockies population of gray wolves. (Photo: USFWS)
Government will try again to take Northern Rockies species off protected list.
The Bush Administration is trying again to take the gray wolf of the Northern Rockies off the federal endangered species list.
Having lost a court battle with conservationists this summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to reopen for public comment its 2007 proposal to de-list the wolves, currently considered "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act.
"The position of the Service is, we think the wolves no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. We're asking the public to weigh into that," Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for Fish and Wildlife, told The Post in an interview today.
Wolf advocates immediately protested.
"This is the Bush Administration's last-gasp attempt to remove protections for wolves," said Louisa Wilcox, senior wildlife advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Livingston, Mont.
Bangs said the government will open a comment period on Tuesday, lasting until Nov. 28. After that, officials could swiftly decide to remove the federal protections for the wolf in much of the Northern Rockies and turn management of the predator species over to the states. The act provides that, once an endangered species has recovered, states take control of their management.
The previous attempt to de-list the wolves led a coalition of conservation organizations to file suit in federal court. In July, U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy ruled in their favor, issuing an injunction that put the wolf back under federal protection pending a final resolution of the suit.
In his lengthy opinion, Molloy said the wolf management plan of Wyoming - which would allow wolves to be shot on sight in 88 percent of the state - would put the wolf population there in jeopardy. Molloy wrote that the federal government's decision to sign off on the Wyoming plan was "arbitrary and capricious." The judge also said that there has not been genetic exchange between isolated sub-populations of wolves.
Fish and Wildlife withdrew that proposal, but now the agency is trying again.
"We're particularly interested in comments related to the court action," said Fish and Wildlife's Bangs. One possibility, he said, is that the wolf could be de-listed everywhere but Wyoming.
"We usually don't promise litigation, but I think in this instance, if they propose the same old tired rule, we'll be left with no choice but to litigate," said Jenny Harbine, an attorney for Earthjustice, a plaintiff in the earlier lawsuit.