TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Federal officials are declaring victory in their four-decade campaign to rescue the gray wolf, a predator the government once considered a nuisance and tried to exterminate.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday proposed removing the animal's remaining protections as an endangered species across the Lower 48 states. The exception would be in the Southwest, where the recovery effort for the related Mexican gray wolf is lagging.

Despite criticism from some scientists and members of Congress who consider the move premature, agency director Dan Ashe said the wolf can thrive and even enlarge its territory without continued federal protection.

"Taking this step fulfills the commitment we've made to the American people — to set biologically sound recovery goals and return wolves to state management when those goals have been met and threats to the species' future have been addressed," Ashe said.

The proposal will be subject to a 90-day public comment period and a final decision made within a year.

Wolves once roamed across most of North America. But trapping, poisoning and aerial shooting encouraged by federal bounties left just one small remnant, in northern Minnesota, by the time they were placed on the protected list in 1974.

By then, attitudes had shifted. Wildlife managers acknowledged the role predators play in providing balanced ecosystems, and the then-new Endangered Species Act mandated protections.

More than 6,100 wolves have now spread across portions of 10 states, primarily in the Northern Rockies and the western Great Lakes regions. Most are in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Packs also have formed in portions of Washington and Oregon, and individual wolves have been spotted in Colorado, Utah, the Dakotas, California and the Northeast.

But they have yet to return to vast additional territory that researchers say has suitable habitat and abundant prey, including parts of the Pacific Northwest, the southern Rocky Mountains, upstate New York and New England.

Environmental groups say wolves could make their way to those places — but only if legal protections remain to prevent them from being shot. Removing them now would put wolves "at serious risk for ever achieving natural recovery," said Diane Bentivegna of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition.

Colorado alone has enough space to support up to 1,000 wolves, according to Carlos Carroll of California's Klamath Center for Conservation Research. He suggested wildlife officials were bowing to political pressure, exerted by elected officials across the West who pushed to limit the wolf's range.

"They've tried to devise their political position first, and then cherry-pick their science to support it," Carroll said of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Maggie Howell of the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y., said the Adirondack Mountains and other parts of the Northeast are "screaming for a predator like the wolf" to thin an out-of-control deer herd.

Ashe, however, said it's unrealistic to think wolves can return to all or even most of their former range, even if scientifically feasible.

"Science is an important part of this decision, but really the key is the policy question of when is a species recovered," he said. "Does the wolf have to occupy all the habitat that is available to it in order for it to be recovered? Our answer to that question is no."

The wolf's resurgence has been unpopular among ranchers and others unhappy about attacks on livestock and popular sport animals — even as hunters and trappers in the last several years killed some 1,600 wolves after protections were lifted in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Government wildlife agents responding to livestock attacks have killed thousands more in recent decades.

Removing legal protections could ease the hostility in the West, where many ranchers complained they're helpless to protect their herds from marauding attackers.

Hunting advocates also have complained as elk herds dwindle in some areas.

"We can't just say, let them go and let the predators manage the big game. That's not going to work in this day and age," said David Allen, president of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Yet the former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service under President Bill Clinton said the agency's proposal "is a far cry from what we envisioned for gray wolf recovery when we embarked on this almost 20 years ago."

"It's a low bar for endangered species recovery," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, who was with the agency when wolves were reintroduced in Idaho and Wyoming in the mid-1990s. She now heads the group Defenders of Wildlife.

David Mech, a leading wolf expert and senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Paul, Minn., said wolves already occupy about 80 percent of the territory where people are likely to tolerate them.

The Center for Biological Diversity vowed to challenge the government in court if it takes the animals off the endangered list.

The Humane Society of the United States, which has filed a lawsuit challenging the removal of protections from Great Lakes wolves, is reviewing the government's latest proposal, spokesman Kaitlin Sanderson said.

Ashe said the plan had been reviewed by top administration officials, including new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. But he dismissed any claims of interference and said the work that went into the plan was exclusively that of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

He said the agency wants to focus future recovery efforts on a small number of wolves belonging to a subspecies, the Mexican gray wolf. Those occur in Arizona and New Mexico, where a protracted and costly reintroduction plan has stumbled in part due to illegal killings.

The agency is calling for a tenfold increase in the territory where biologists are working to rebuild that population, which now numbers 73 animals. Law enforcement efforts to ward off poaching in the region would be bolstered.

(54) comments

Gadfly
Gadfly

http://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/hunt-the-hunters/

RPT
RPT

HUNTING is CONSERVATION.
Without hunting there would be NO wildlife.
Except a few in the parks and zoo’s.

LCHelenajr
LCHelenajr

Wolves will obviously never inhabit their old territories because humans are living in these areas. This is why this experiment will eventually fail. Yellowstone park is a predator pit and those wolves will starve to death because they will kill off their food supply. As they move to new areas they will suffer in traps and be shot. I am glad to say that I have my tree stand ready and am ready to gun some of them down.

Gadfly
Gadfly

Letter from wolf scientists to Sally Jewell Sec of Interior and Dan Ashe USFWS:

http://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/letter-from-wolf-scientists-to-sec-sally-jewell/

elkguy
elkguy

Wolf lovers like David Stalling were the reason RMEF membership numbers were tanking. We all felt that their pro-wolf stance would harm elk numbers, and we were members because we like elk. And we were right. HD 313 went from one of the best public land trophy bull areas in the world, with a late season cow hunt that fed many families, to a barren wasteland within 15 years of the illegal introduction of wolves. Late hunt is history and you must draw a permit to hunt bulls. David Allen is the best thing to happen to the RMEF since it was founded, and i have rejoined after a 15 year hiatus because of David's refusal to go along with the wolf lover bs.

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

Elkguy:

I guess I am a wolf lover. And an elk lover. And a grizzy lover and trout lover. I'm just an overall lover of wildlife and wild places. I also love to eat wild elk meat.

Last year 941 hunters hunted HD 313 and killed 167 elk. Although a lot of the guides and outfitters in the area publicly complain about the wolves, if you check out their websites they are reporting high success rates and good hunting (are they lying to public officials, or are they lying to their clients and potential clients?).

Elk numbers are at good, healthy, sustainable numbers in the Park and within HD 313, as are populations of mule deer, grizzlies, wolves, mountain lions, native trout and other wildlife. It's hardly what most folks would consider a "barren wasteland."

It's true that people no longer wait along the park border to shoot elk when deep snow pushes them across the line, as was once the case back when the elk populations far exceeded a sustainable carrying capacity, winter kills were huge and the habitat -- particularly the aspen and riparian communities -- were negatively impacted by too many elk. The impact on the habitat from an overabundance of elk also had very negative impacts on other wildlife, including and especially native trout and grizzlies.

Now that elk numbers are back to healthy, sustainable numbers the habitat has improved -- Aspen communities are returning and riparian areas have recovered, benefiting elk and other wildlife. We no longer see the huge winters kills we used to witness and people who want can get out and hunt elk (instead of just shooting them as they're pushed across the border from deep snow).

Overall elk numbers are up in Montana. I have no problem finding and killing elk every fall. It takes effort; I get out and hunt hard. If you need some pointers on elk hunting I'd be happy to help. Feel free to give me a call: 406-274-3906.

I wish you the best of luck this fall.

Comment deleted.
Objective observer
Objective observer

Gadfly, congratulations on an epic whinefest. What are you bitching about? The wolf is recovered and it is high time it was removed from the endangered species list and managed like every other predator...coyotes, mountain lions, etc.

RPT
RPT

As I recall back in the early days almost all of us , including the RMEF , were in favor of the wolf reintroduction. After all what harm could 100 wolves per state with X number of packs per state do ?.... Except all of that turned out to be a lie to get their foot in the door and to turn the wolf into their latest ‘Cash Cow’... When that goal had been reached and it was time for delisting these same anti-hunting, pro-wolf groups showed their true colors by showing up with their lawyers and a Federal judge in their back pocket who wanted to try his hand at game management and they moved the goal post.
And they continued to move the goal posts until they had slaughtered one of the greatest elk herds on earth and turned Yellowstone into a predator pit..
Turning the wolf into the most hated critter in the territory and actually requiring an act of Congress and the Ninth Circuit court of Appeals to stop them.
Is it time to stop funding and drop any and all protection for the wolf?.. Darn right it is.. And the sooner the better.
The wolf has NEVER been endangered and should have NEVER been placed on that list in the first place.

onetwopunch
onetwopunch

you sounded pretty smart there for a minute..

logger
logger

"unpopular with ranchers..."?? Yes, wolf reintroduction has been SOooo popular, that not one liberal state in the West has advocated a repeat of the Yellowstone re-introduction. Yes, California should be fertile habitat...certainly Gov. Moonbeam has advocated a return of the magnificent "keystoe species"? What...NO...huh. Colorado, home of most enviro grant money in the country, certainly has called for hosting a re-introduction? But what's that...NO...Hmmm. And I do like the article declaring wonderful habitat in New York and the Northeast. Certainly Vermont, which gave Nobama almost 70% of the vote has passed a resolution to re-introduce the wolf. But then...once again I hear crickets.

Wolf reintroduction to Yeollowstone was nothing but a feel good sap for east and west coast hippies who look upon the west as their enviro colony. Mendacity.

Dave Skinner
Dave Skinner

Um, I just have to laugh that David Stalling is ripping on Dave Allen of RMEF. After all, Stalling was excised from RMEF staff when Allen came on board. Now Stalling is at Trout Unlimited out of Berkeley, CA, a real sportsmens paradise.
One more thing....what did Jamie Rappaport Clark REALLY have in mind when she was Mollie Beattie's flunky and was promising us 30 breeding pairs for recovery? In other words, she and her boss at USFWS lied in order to get the animals out of the cages and on the ground.
Thanks for that, sweetheart.

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

Dave Skinner: I am flattered you've apparently tried to keep tabs on my career, but as usual you don't let facts get in the way of your statements. I left RMEF on my own, in 2000, seven years before David Allen even came along. I was never "excised;" I left on all on my own, on very good terms (farewell party and all) to accept a job with Trout Unlimited. It's true I lived in California for two years, working on the protection and restoration of salmon, steelhead and wild trout. (California can be a pretty good sportsmen's paradise -- I caught some hefty king salmon while I was there!) I am now back in Montana. You need to catch up Dave.

Of course, you can attempt to smear me with your lies all you want; none of it changes the facts I've stated.

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

It's unfortunate that David Allen of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) is quoted as a representative of hunters. The former NASCAR marketer knows little about wolves or other wildlife and has frequently called wolf reintroduction the "worst ecological disaster" since the decimation of the bison herds. He ignores good research the RMEF has funded and instead perpetuates lies and misconceptions about wolves to politicize the issue and boost his fundraising efforts.

As a hunter, the qualities I most admire in elk -- their alertness, agility, speed and wariness -- were all honed by eons of co-evolution with predators such as wolves. Our elk herds are better off, and their habitat has been vastly improved, with the return of wolves. It's nice to have them back.

Thanks to the dedicated wildlife professionals with the the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and others, who have worked hard to restore these magnificent predators to their rightful place where they belong -- we're all better off for it (Yes, including us elk hunters).

Keep Elk Wild and Wary: Support Wolves!

BJackson
BJackson

David, you are mad because you got ousted when Allen came in, and now you are going to rally against him? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, you were against wolf reintroducing when it was being discuss about 20 years ago, now you are all for it. Give me a break!

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

BJackson: I left RMEF on my own, in 2000, seven years before David Allen came along. I was never "ousted;" I left on good terms, all on my own (farewell party and all), to accept a job with Trout Unlimited to work on the protection and restoration native trout, salmon, steelhead and the watersheds that sustain them. I was never against wolf reintroduction. I was involved in the reintroduction efforts as a volunteer with the National Wildlife Federation, and I have been writing in favor of wolves for nearly 30 years. In fact, when I was the conservation editor of the RMEF's Bugle magazine (from 1990-2000) I wrote several articles in favor of wolf reintroduction, based on good research that was funded by RMEF -- research they now ignore while perpetuating lies and misconceptions, as you apparently like to do as well.

onetwopunch
onetwopunch

right on!!

Yz250
Yz250

Funny comment Gomer

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

It's unfortunate that David Allen of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) is quoted as a representative of hunters. The former NASCAR marketer knows little about wolves or other wildlife and has frequently called wolf reintroduction the "worst ecological disaster" since the decimation of the bison herds. He ignores good research the RMEF has funded and instead perpetuates lies and misconceptions about wolves to politicize the issue and boost his fundraising efforts.

As a hunter, the qualities I most admire in elk -- their alertness, agility, speed and wariness -- were all honed by eons of co-evolution with predators such as wolves. Our elk herds are better off, and their habitat has been vastly improved, with the return of wolves. It's nice to have them back.

Thanks to the dedicated wildlife professionals with the the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and others, who have worked hard to restore these magnificent predators to their rightful place where they belong -- we're all better off for it (Yes, including us elk hunters).

Keep Elk Wild and Wary: Support Wolves!

Roger
Roger

Isn't that what hunters also do - keep elk wild and wary?

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

Yes. Some of us do.

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

Roger: Yes, some of us do. Others would just assume shoot them on game farms, or prefer management more in common with animal husbandry than wildlife management. Historically, wolves have always been part of elk country and helped influence, shape and create the elk we know today -- year round, every year, for hundreds of years. I'm glad they're back. I've noticed the elk I hunt are definitely bunching up and moving around more, and can be a bit more challenging to hunt. But they are still there.

Snowcrest
Snowcrest

Dave, Where in Montana do hunters shoot elk on game farms?
Please try to be somewhat honest when you debate.

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

Snowcrest: I said "others" (meaning some hunters) would just assume shoot them (elk) on game farms -- I did not say in Montana. There are plenty of so-called hunters, even some from Montana, who travel the world and shoot elk and other wildlife on penned game farms. Cabela's even advertises such captive killing operations in their catalogs and Safari Club International endorses much of it.

Fortunately, people can't shoot elk on game farms in Montana anymore -- Not since 2000 when I-143, the "Game Farm Initiative," was passed by voters in Montana that banned the captive killing operations. Up until that point, there were several such operations in Montana, the largest being the former Big Velvet Ranch in Darby (now gone).

The issue split the hunting community in Montana, and many hunters and hunting organizations defended game farms. Hence: "Others would just assume shoot them on game farms, or prefer management more in common with animal husbandry than wildlife management."

I hope that clarifies my statement for you. There is nothing dishonest about it at all.

speedbow20
speedbow20

I`m beginning to see why you no longer represent RMEF.

Comment deleted.
reality check 4 you
reality check 4 you

If only the "moron's would understand the truth. Great post!

reality check 4 you
reality check 4 you

All this hatred toward one of God's beautiful creatures. But I'd expect nothing less in this environment. After all a non moral people that could elect Barack Obama again and people like superintendent John C. McGee and trustees people like Pat Appleby, Vicki Cornish and Dorothy Rhodes out here in Florence. It's no wonder this once great country is going downhill quick. The wolves need protection, from the masses of morons

onetwopunch
onetwopunch

here is a little info for you, I was at an anti wolf rally and I asked for a quick show of hands on how many outfitters were in the crowd of "ranchers" and there were many hands raised, so all these guys were worried about their livestock when the truth is they weren't even ranchers. You should have seen the look on their faces when I called B.S. on them. I personally am not afraid of the big bad wolf and see no good reason to kill any since I am an honest to goodness real Montana hunting family man. And we love the hunt and not the killing out here.

RPT
RPT

you sounded pretty smart there for a minute..... Then you kept talking.

RPT
RPT

onetwo... Sounds more like a bunch of hair dressers... I’ve known and been around a few outfitters .. You sure you were at the right meeting?

gomer13
gomer13

Roger Hewitt, (gadfly)
The ESA is to protect animals from extinction. Are wolves almost extinct?

Comment deleted.
RPT
RPT

Yada...yada...pftttt... We’ve seen your meaningless cut and paste posts before. Many times... Go join your sister in her basement.

Comment deleted.
RPT
RPT

Yada...yada...yada...pftttt... We’ve seen your meaningless cut and paste post before.. Go join your sister in her basement.

RPT
RPT

We all should be giving credit where credit is due by thanking Senator Tester for putting into motion the process to end this scam on the American public through a brilliant political move to stop those responsible for wanting to continue this disaster.... Thank You Senator Tester...A TRUE American patriot and sportsman.

gomer13
gomer13

Richard has never seen a wolf. That would require setting down the bong, and quit carpet munching her butch girlfriend long enough to leave the confines of her parent's run down basement.

Comment deleted.
RPT
RPT

He wasn’t talking about the Disney Channel .. Silly girl.

Comment deleted.
RPT
RPT

He/she wasn't talking about the Disney Channel, Richard.

gomer13
gomer13

Of course it's time. The endangered species list is meant for animals that are on the verge of extinction. There is hundreds of thousands of wolves in north America.
When wolves were nearly wiped out in the US there was about 25 times more trappers. They were using snares and poison and getting paid a bounty. We obviously aren't going back to those days, therefore the wolves will do just fine.

Snowcrest
Snowcrest

It has finally come to the point where now when a person comes to a gate and gets out of the truck and sees wolf skirting along a field at daylight he can now, without threat of any persecution, drill that predator right in his tracks. Just like a coyote.
It has come where it will be not newsworthy to report on wolves shot by law biding Montanans and be common place.
I hope those that most of those shot will be females to help curb the huge population that Richard says is out there.
If he's right, we need to really hit them hard to strike the right balance.
Thank you Richard for you efforts..

RSW
RSW

No, that's not what this means. You can't just shoot wolves without one of the criteria in place to do so, and if your just shooting for the fun of it, then it's no better than poaching. I applaud the Obama administration for their courage to do the right thing.

Snowcrest
Snowcrest

Sorry fool, the wolf will be classified a predator which would allow it to be shot 24/7.

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

And if folks inadvertently shoots what's commonly referred to as the "alpha breeding female" (the female of the pack which controls breeding, reproduction and in essence "regulates" how many pups are born and allowed to survive -- even to the point of sometimes killing pups born to other females if prey is scarce) it often throws the pack into disarray and increases breeding and reproduction of females, and sometimes expansion and creation of new packs. In other words: Shooting the females can often expand and increase wolf populations. I am not opposed to management and control of wolf populations, but it can be tricky and should be based on good, sound science and what we know about wolf ecology, biology and breeding and reproductive behavior.

I doubt wolves will ever again be classified as a "predator" allowing it to be shot 24/7 -- it's more likely to be classified like a "game" animal administered and managed by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks with seasons, limits and other controls and regulations put in place as is happening now.

Stan Reck
Stan Reck

You actually read what richard11 writes? I just skip over the drivel.

RPT
RPT

Not any more.. I just automatically hit the ‘Report Abuse’ option on each of her post.

oldcowgirl
oldcowgirl

"Ditto"

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

Who?

Roger
Roger

You read on of her comments, you've read them all.

RPT
RPT

HUNTING is CONSERVATION.
Without hunting there would be NO wildlife.
Except a few in the parks and zoo’s.

RPT
RPT

I've started hitting the “Report Abuse” option on every post Ms. Richard makes..If all of us do it the Missoulian will take action and remove her post. It’s disgusting the use and abuse she's trying to get away with on this forum.
We’ve had hundreds of her posts removed by reporting them as abuse... Plus we’ve forced her to clean up her act about 97% from what she used to be like. It makes her furious that we’ve been able to manage and control her this way and there isn’t a thing she can do about it..
She’s part of the movement that’s out to destroy all that’s great about America anyway they can.
Even supported turning Yellowstone into a predator pit and slaughtering one of the greatest elk herds on earth.

Comment deleted.
boo boo da bear
boo boo da bear

Bahahahahahahahahahaha!!

RPT
RPT

Simple solution... Not one more dime of public funding towards the scam known as the” Wolf reintroduction”.
Chop off all funding that’s connected to this scam immediately.
There are tens of thousands of wolves out there and it’s ridiculous that we’re wasting millions studying and protecting what
is easily the most useless and wasteful predator on earth at a time when our country is broke.
Chop off the money supply and watch how fast these extremist anti-common sense groups disappear... They want more wolfs.. Let them fund it.

Stan Reck
Stan Reck

Ah, Dear Leader says it is ok so the moonbats fall in line? It will be interesting to see if any koolaid drinkers oppose Dear Leader's wishes.

sukeysafool
sukeysafool

LOL....I wonder what lil Mrs. Richie will say. Gee, maybe she will say we lost, this contradicts that belief though. Maybe she will say there will be elk calf steaks? Funny thing about that steaks are cut pieces of meat so I am not sure what she thinks happens by saying this over and over again. Maybe she will say and prove how she thinks elk calf recruitment is dropping due to weather changes. Maybe she will say how she knows there is 1000 plus wolves in mt. Maybe she will just repeat her self over and over and over and over and over again.

boo boo da bear
boo boo da bear

whatever it is, it will soon be eating crow .the footlooser are in for a rude awakening s00n

Snowcrest
Snowcrest

When the Obama administration says it's time to lift protection of the wolf, it's probably time.

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