Government writes wolf success story

  NATION


The federal government has declared its wolf recovery program a success. With wolf numbers at nearly 3,500 today - up from practically zero in the 1950s - the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed on July 11 to downlist the gray wolf from "endangered" to "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act in most of the West. The new rule doesn't affect reintroduced populations.


Under the proposed threatened status for the West, landowners could harass wolves into leaving their property or kill wolves in the act of injuring livestock or guard animals. These actions are now punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 or one year in prison.


"We are hoping for less agency control to help build public acceptance (of wolves)," says Ed Bangs, the agency's Western wolf recovery coordinator.


But conservationists like David Gaillard of the Predator Conservation Alliance in Bozeman, Mont., say the downlisting could endanger the entire wolf recovery program. Gaillard points to northwestern Montana, where five breeding pairs were estimated in 1999 - only half of the government's goal for that area. Still, the area is proposed for downlisting, because the agency argues that the entire Northern Rockies region has enough wolves.


National Wildlife Federation attorney Tom France is disappointed that the service wants to drop wolves entirely from the list in California and Nevada, where officials say the animals have little chance of recovery. He says, "The Fish and Wildlife Service and all Americans should imagine a day when wolves roam from the Canadian border to the Mexican border."


Until Nov. 10, comments on the wolf proposal can be sent to: Content Analysis Enterprise Team, Wolf Comments, 200 East Broadway, P.O. Box 7669, Room 301, Missoula, MT 59807, or e-mailed to [email protected], or faxed to 406/329-3021. Information on the proposal can be found at midwest.-fws.gov/wolf.


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