The Endangered Species Act was passed into law in order to remove political posturing from the management of America’s dwindling ecology, making it possible for endangered species to be protected even when it would be politically inconvenient to do so. Under Barack Obama, however, we have seen a continuation of George W. Bush’s hostility toward the Endangered Species Act, with the Obama Administration using its authority to remove animals from protection for the sake of political gain. Nowhere has this repoliticization of wildlife management been more clear than in Obama’s treatment of wolves.
The Obama Administration has already opened up large numbers of wolf populations to hunting. Now, the Obama Administration is proposing the removal of all grey wolves from Endangered Species Act protections, across the entire lower 48 states. Under Obama’s new rule, people could hunt grey wolves wherever they could be found.
Biologists say that there’s no basis for this removal of America’s wolves from protection. A group of 16 biologists who were shocked to find their own research used to excuse the proposed open season on wolves write, “We find these proposals problematic both in terms of their scientific support and their consistency with the intent of the statute… The gray wolf has barely begun to recover or is absent from significant portions of its former range where substantial suitable habitat remains.”
The American Society of Mammologists has sent a letter to the Obama Administration declaring, “We look forward to the day when the scientific evidence clearly points to the conclusion that federal protection of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act is no longer needed to ensure full recovery of this important apex predator. However, we believe it is premature to declare that that day has arrived… We request that, at a minimum, you postpone this decision until the views of all experts on gray wolf biology have been fully aired.”
Mammologists conduct actual scientific studies of animal populations and their behaviors. They don’t just rely on anecdotal evidence, as the pro-hunting lobby does. Here’s what mammologists have observed:
More than one third of the population of grey wolves was eliminated Rocky Mountains region in just the first year of wolf hunting there after the removal of protection under the Endangered Species Act. That’s not what a reasonable, rational population management program looks like.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s claims about the recovery of local grey wolf populations is not supported by the Service’s own data. Furthermore, the recovery thresholds were not developed on the basis of scientific data about wolf ecology, but were set arbitrarily.
The grey wolf packs currently occupy less than 6 percent of their former territory in the Western United States. That’s not anything close to the Endangered Species Act’s requirements for restoration of animals to areas where they had been extirpated.