FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2007
Contact: Kristina Johnson 415.977.5619
Rocky Mountain Wolves Lose Critical Protection
Removal from Endangered Species List Could Lead to Decline
Today, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will remove Northern Rocky gray wolves from the Endangered Species list. Though wolves once roamed from central Mexico to the Arctic, by the 1930s, gray wolves had virtually disappeared from the area. Wolves were reintroduced into the region in 1995. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, they’ve begun to rebound, but they have not yet made a sound enough recovery to warrant delisting.
“The decision to remove protections for wolves is premature. We still have a long way to go before wolf populations are sustainable over the long term. This is like declaring victory at mile eighteen in a marathon,” said Sierra Club representative Melanie Stein.
Recent studies have shown that the long-term viability of the Northern Rockies wolf population is still in jeopardy. There is almost no genetic mixing between the three subpopulations of wolves in the region. Without genetic interchange between the populations, wolves will be forced to inbreed, compromising the health and viability of the population.
“The wolves in and around Yellowstone are almost completely isolated from other wolves,” Stein said. “In order for wolves to survive over the long haul, there must be interchange between wolves in Central Idaho, Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Area.”
In addition, the wolf management plans for the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana call for aggressive removal of wolves, including by shooting them from the air. These aggressive wolf killing practices, coupled with genetic isolation and premature removal of protections, could push wolf numbers dangerously low and reverse decades of recovery work.
“We’ve worked hard to bring wolves back from the brink of extinction,” Stein said. “Tourists from around the world come to the Yellowstone area to see our wolves. Wolves are an important part of the natural balance in the Rockies. They’re a symbol of America’s wild legacy, and we can’t afford to lose them again.”
The Sierra Club, along with other conservation groups, plans to challenge the wolf delisting decision in court.
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