The U.S. government once sponsored the wholesale eradication of wolves by any means, be it poisoning, trapping or shooting. It was only right, then, that the U.S. government step up to restore the animals they once helped drive to extinction.

Now, that work is done. With more than 6,000 wolves at last count, the species is no longer in danger of extinction in the Lower 48. Federal protections have been removed in a handful of states already, with full delisting on the horizon.

Draft plans to fully delist gray wolves in the Lower 48 were first discussed back in April. On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its proposed rule in the Federal Register, thus opening the 90-day public comment period.

If the rule is accepted, individual states will assume full responsibility for managing their wolf populations, much as Montana has already done. One particular subspecies of gray wolves in the Southwest will be the lone exception. This group of about 75 Mexican wolves would still be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

However, several large conservation organizations have met the planned end of protections with dismay. Some wildlife advocates are worried that full delisting could lead to widespread extermination. They also see the end of federal protections as the end of any attempts to establish new gray wolf populations in new areas.

These worries persist despite the precedent set in Montana. In 2011, protections for Montana’s wolf populations were lifted. Now, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is largely free to manage wolves, and they haven’t been eradicated – nor have all the elk or domestic animals that wolves sometimes prey on.

No, instead wolf populations in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions are healthy and appear to be expanding without human encouragement. In two states, Washington and Oregon, newly established and still-small wolf packs are growing under the protection of state law, rather than federal oversight.

Montana FWP continues to make adjustments to the state’s wolf management plan here. This is as it should be. Although this editorial board does not agree with every aspect of the state’s plans, we acknowledge that those plans are designed to be as responsive as possible to widely diverse needs. The concerns of ranchers, hunters, conservationists and others are all being taken into account.

And should the states fail in their mission, Endangered Species Act protections can be applied again.

But no species should be need permanent protection – especially not when all evidence proves they have fully recovered. In the decade preceding partial delisting, gray wolf recovery efforts cost the U.S. government some $102 million. That, in addition to the $15.6 million provided by the states. The federal government’s time, money and attention is better spent on protecting those species on the brink of extinction.

The 90-day public comment period on the proposed rule will end on Sept. 11. Speak up, and lend your support to fully delisting gray wolves.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Publisher Jim McGowan, Editor Sherry Devlin, Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen

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(14) comments

AL KIPF
AL KIPF

Shocking coming from the Missoulian. Smoke a pack a day.

reality22f
reality22f

I have gained a little more respect for the editorial board at the Missoulian. Certainly they understand the abuse that these groups have thwarted the Endangered Species Act.....by, the law suit after law suit for an non-endangered animal.

If only they backed off on Roger Hewitt - letter to the editor...... and serial poster RichardR11.

ladybatman
ladybatman

I keep wondering why they restore the Wolves was it to be able to hunt or torture or trap so they can sell the fur. Well that's wrong, they are part of the Ego Sytem and related to our Dogs.They are amazing and should be reinstated. Let them live their life's are theirs.

Yaocihuatl
Yaocihuatl

I keep wondering why it is that people over look the fact that these animals are only considered recovered because the USFWS had a proposed number for "recovery". They have "met" their "agreement" and that is the reason they have given as to why they are proposing the delisting. The people who are all for this delisting fail to realise that the wolves range was almost the entire continent before european settlers(invaders). To delist these animals for the reasons being given by people who are all for the wolves being delisted regardless of their personal reasons/agendas is based on opinion, not science.

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

The recovery objectives were based on the best available science in regards to remaining habitat that can still viably sustain wild wolves, which need lots of space, wildlands, prey and good habitat. Although wolves did once indeed inhabit most of North America, most of that habitat has been too drastically altered and could not sustain wild wolves anymore. Proposals to delist wolves is based on good science. Recovery objectives have been met.

Roger
Roger

Good editorial - all wildlife belongs to the individual states according to the U.S. Constitution. It's past time to delist the mangy fleabags.

Joby79
Joby79

States have proven to be entirely incapable of “managing” wolves. The livestock and hunting industries are influencing state wolf policies, while science is ignored. And, the usual Big Bad Wolf fairy tales are being trotted out to justify the wolf slaughter. The fact is, there are more elk in Montana now than there were before wolf reintroduction, and wolves are not severely impacting livestock. Yet state wildlife agencies in the Northern Rockies continue to pander to those who wrongly believe that wolves are decimating elk and livestock.

How is it sound or ethical “management” to kill wolves during breeding season, to bait wolves or lure wolves using electronic calls, to choke wolves in snares, to kill pregnant wolves, or hunt wolves with dogs? How is it sound or ethical “management” to allow the killing of wolves on sight in 85% of Wyoming? Politics, not science, has been driving this issue from the start.

Biologists warned against Tester’s delisting rider. 16 of the nation’s top biologists have warned against delisting in the lower 48. Yet these credible voices continue to be ignored in favor of those with irrational, antiquated views about wolves.

Wolves only occupy a fraction of their former habitat. There is plenty of suitable unoccupied habitat in Colorado, Utah, and parts of Washington, Oregon, and California. But the needless wolf slaughter in the Northern Rockies will jeopardize wolf recovery in these states. It's significant to note that Minnesota had at least 1,600 wolves when they were listed under the ESA. So, how is it that 1,600 wolves is now considered enough to delist wolves in the Northern Rockies, and far less than that in Oregon and Washington (which only have a few dozen wolves each), when 1,600 wolves required ESA protection in Minnesota? Answer: Politics.

It's obvious that the USFWS, just like MTFWP and other state wildlife agencies, has pandered to politicians and a powerful minority of special interests.

Persecution of wolves in order to placate special interests and those who still cling to Big Bad Wolf myths and fears is not a valid reason for managing wolves or any wildlife. Yet that is exactly what is happening, and it will continue to happen if USFWS follows through with its misguided, politically driven policy to delist all wolves in the lower 48.

Snowcrest
Snowcrest

Funny how Joby79 claims the USFWS and MTFWP have 'pandered to politicians and a powerful minority special interests' and yet, ironically, the fact is we now have a healthy wolf population in the lower 48 only because the 'powerful minority of special interests",,( ie: wolf advocate organizations) were successful in pandering their own pocket politicians to push for re-introduction!
You used the very same tactic to get your wolves!

You have your wolves now, what more will please you?
To see all hunting in the US banned?

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

I support the restoration of wolves, but would never want to see hunting in the US banned. I love having my freezer filled with wild elk meat.

Yaocihuatl
Yaocihuatl

There is aboslutely no sound science that proves wolves will hunt wild ungulates to the brink of extinction. I think you're ok and if you truly are in favor of supporting the wolves , as a hunter you have the unique opportunity to find more people like you and fight to save them from being delisted. 10 states is nto the full range of the wolves. Before europeans came here the wolves ranged almost the entire continent.

I appreciate what you've said here tho.

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

Yaocihuati: I was probably not very clear in the way I worded my post. Of course wolves will never hunt elk, deer and other ungulates to the brink of extinction. I would never even suggest that. In fact, overall elk numbers in Montana have increased. In the places elk populations have decreased, such as in and around Yellowstone, elk are now at healthier, more sustainable numbers and habitat has been greatly enhanced as a result.

I love wolves, and I have been involved in wolf reintroduction efforts since 1986, long before wolves even hit the ground here in Montana. There are many hunters who feel the same as I do, I have "found" them, I am one of them, and we do fight on behalf of wolves and all habitat.

Although wolves -- like other wildlife, including elk and grizzlies -- once inhabited most of North America they will never before restored to their full and original range. We have all collectively, as a society, altered their habit in most places so that most places can no longer viably sustain them. Wolves need lots of space, lots of available prey, and lots of wild habitat. We are very fortunate to still have that here in Montana.

I always have and will continue to support (and fight for) the continued protection of wolves and personally I am opposed to hunting wolves. However, I do support delisting. Recovery objectives (which were, indeed, based on the best available science in relation to viable remaining habitat) have been met and the the intent and purpose of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been met. It is not the purpose of the ESA to continue overseeing and managing species that have met recovery goals. The purpose and intent of the ESA is to protect and recover endangered species. If the ESA goes beyond that, it will erode much-needed support for the ESA, and the time, money and effort that has gone into the successful recovery of wolves should now be focused on the protection and recovery of other threatened and endangered species.

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

I agree with much of what you have to say and I share yours (and others) concerns about state management. However, it is not the intent, purpose or place of the Endangered Species Act to manage recovered species. The purpose of the Act is to help species recover, and the wolves are now recovered. It's a great success story and a fine testament to the value and importance of the Endangered Species Act. I commend, respect and appreciate the dedicated professionals of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others, for doing a great job.

If the federal government continues managing a species that is now recovered, it will weaken support for a good, important law that is constantly under scrutiny and attack by those who would put development, profit, greed and selfishness over the protection and restoration of wildlife and wild places.

I agree with the Missoulian editorial that the time, money and effort put into wolf recovery would now be best focused on species that remain threatened and endangered (bull trout and westslope cutthroat come to mind).

As for state management: I think, overall, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is a good agency made of many very passionate and dedicated professionals. Yes, politics plays a big role in their policies and actions -- as is the case with all public agencies. It is the responsibility of all of us to get actively involved and help shape and influence decisions and policies.

Unfortunately, wolf management is currently being guided more by political and public pressure and ignorance than good, sound science and our best knowledge of wolf behavior and ecology. I hope, with time, that will change and wild wolves become a more accepted and appreciated part of our landscape, as they should be.

Yaocihuatl
Yaocihuatl

"Capable" of viewing an apex predator as a commodity yes, capable of allowing them to be tortured to death slowly by whatever means, yes. The list goes on. Wolves are living beings with family structures and the ability to be torn apart on every level by the deaths of their pack members. Yet the states are allowing them to be hunted at all is not "managing" a species.

Comment deleted.
Iceman9
Iceman9

By contrast, the people who call for this massacre should also be managed down to the brink of extinction.

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