By David Scott, Sierra Club President
As many readers of this blog are well aware, in June the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of threatened and endangered species. The proposal would strip Endangered Species Act protections from wolves across nearly the entire continental U.S., despite the fact that there are few, if any, wolves left in the vast majority of their former range.
Four public hearings on the proposed delisting were scheduled for earlier this fall, but three of them -- in Sacramento, Albuquerque, and Denver -- were cancelled due to the federal government shutdown. At the hearing that did take place, on September 30 in Washington, D.C., several Sierra Club activists were among the 73 citizens who spoke out against delisting (only three spoke in favor), and Sierra Club Legislative Director Debbie Sease spoke at a pre-hearing rally.
Despite cancellation of the official hearings, in early October hundreds of wolf supporters held citizens hearings in Albuquerque and Denver. In Albuquerque alone, 300 people showed up for a "Save the Lobo" rally and unofficial hearing where activists recorded video testimony to be delivered after the shutdown. (Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch Brothers, attempted to hold an event next door to the Save the Lobo rally, but only about 30 people showed up.)
Four make-up hearings on the gray wolf delisting have now been scheduled, and three are taking place this week, in Denver, Albuquerque, and Sacramento. A fourth and final hearing will take place in Pinetop, Arizona, on December 3.
Denver - Tuesday, November 19, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 405–1245
Albuquerque - Wednesday, November 20, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Embassy Suites, Sandia Room, 1000 Woodward Place NE, Albuquerque, NM 87102; (505) 245–7100
Sacramento - Friday, November 22, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. the Marriot Courtyard Sacramento Cal Expo, Golden State Ballroom, 1782 Tribute Road, Sacramento, CA 95815; (916) 929–7900
Pinetop, AZ - Tuesday, December 3, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hon-Dah Conference Center, 777 Highway 260, Pinetop, AZ 85935 (3 miles outside of Pinetop at the Junction of Hwy 260 and Hwy 73); (928) 369–7625
I urge all who care about giving gray wolves a fighting chance of continuing their comeback to attend one of the hearings in person and speak out. And if you cannot attend a hearing, please take action here. The deadline for submitting public comments is December 17.
Wolf recovery has been one of our greatest Endangered Species Act success stories. Stripping away federal protections now, before the population has fully recovered, will negate the decades of hard work that have gone into bringing wolves back from the brink of extinction. Without federal protections, this magnificent symbol of our wild heritage will almost certainly slide back into harm's way. Wolf hunting seasons have been reintroduced over the last two years in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and more than 550 wolves were killed by hunters or trappers in the Northern Rockies this past season alone.
Wolves are among North America's most charismatic animals. The howl of the wolf is emblematic of our country's last wild places, reminding us of the power and beauty of the natural world. Wolves once ranged from coast to coast and from Alaska to Mexico, but they have been victims of prejudice since their early encounters with people. Targeted by bounty hunters for their pelts, they were poisoned, trapped, and shot, until by the 1970s, wolves remained only in remote areas of Minnesota and Michigan in the lower 48 states.
The tide began to turn when Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and wolves received official protection that same year. Since then, thanks to the federal protections, wolf populations have rebounded in the continental U.S., and today there are about 1,800 gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and roughly 4,000 in the Great Lakes states.
The current proposal to strip gray wolves of federal protections reflects a political desire, not scientific reality. Now is the time to finish the job of wolf recovery, not abandon gray wolves to the same kinds of destructive forces that endangered them in the first place.