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Conservation Groups Protest Lowering Wolf Recovery Goals for the Northern Rockies.

Feb. 29, 2000


A large number of groups have written to Jamie Clark, head of the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service protesting the gathering effort to declare the wolf in the Northern Rockies recovered, although 2 of the 3 recovery areas haven't meet the 10 packs criteria for even one year yet.  Only Idaho is on track for recovery.  It has met the 10 packs goal (probably) for two sucessive years now.

It's evident to me that so far there is some wolf interaction between the NW Montana recovery area and the central Idaho recovery area, but almost no interaction between these two and the Yellowstone recovery area. Just one wolf has successfully  made the trip from the Yellowstone recovery area to central Idaho -- R132M -- born to the Washakie Pack in 1997 is now in northern Idaho. He made it almost to Salmon, Idaho on his own, but then he got a USFWS lift to the North Fork of the Clearwater Country in north central Idaho, where he is now probably the alpha male of the Snow Peak Pack.  As far as documented interaction between the Yellowstone Recovery area and central Idaho or the rest of Montana, that's it.

I can visualize some beneficial changes that could be made to the recovery criteria -- ones that may benefit the wolves, wolf supporters, and even their opponents; but the government-contemplated proposal is not one of them.  I signed the letter.

 

February 28, 2000
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS:
David Gaillard, Predator Conservation Alliance. (406) 587-3389
Craig Gehrke, The Wilderness Society, 208-343-8153, ext. 11
Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater, 208-882-9755

GROUPS PROTEST LOWERING WOLF RECOVERY GOALS

Bozeman, MT - Thirty-two conservation groups have allied against a proposal
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to reduce wolf recovery goals
in the northern Rocky Mountains. Groups from the northern Rockies region
and nationwide co-signed a letter to FWS Director Jamie Clark on Friday
protesting any weakening of the wolf recovery plan, implemented in 1987.
The letter concludes, "These proposed changes to the wolf recovery program
in mid-course are a serious matter that must be rectified as the apparent
new direction is contrary to good science, the law, and the public
interest."

The changes have not yet been officially proposed, but the FWS has made
repeated public announcements about upcoming changes that would speed up
the "de-listing" of wolves, or removal of their federal protections under
the Endangered Species Act. A written proposal is expected from the agency
sometime this spring.

"The science is crystal clear that any wolf population with fewer than ten
breeding pairs is at tremendous risk, yet the Fish and Wildlife Service now
proposes to consider these populations "recovered?'" said Craig Gehrke of
The Wilderness Society.

"Frankly, we are shocked at the behavior of the Fish and Wildlife Service
on this issue," said David Gaillard of Bozeman, Montana-based Predator
Conservation Alliance. "It is downright reckless to lower the goalposts in
mid-game when what is at stake is the successful restoration of wolves to
the northern Rockies," he added.


February 25, 2000

Ms. Jamie Clark, Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Ms. Clark:

We are writing on behalf of our respective organizations with grave
concerns about the proposed weakening of the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf
Recovery Plan, specifically: (1) lowering the parameters for what defines
wolf recovery in the northern Rockies, and (2) lowering the standards to be
met before wolves can be "downlisted" from Endangered to Threatened in the
northern Rockies. While we have not yet seen a formal proposal in writing
on these issues, the changes have been publicly announced by U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (FWS) repeatedly, and we anticipate a formal proposal
within the next few months. We urge you to act immediately to halt these
attempts to weaken the wolf recovery plan, to ensure that the wolves get
the protections they deserve and require to successfully be restored to the
northern Rockies.

A letter was submitted to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt eighteen months
ago - co-signed by 20 conservation groups active in the northern Rockies
region - to protest a public announcement that wolves would change in
status from Endangered to Threatened in the northern Rockies (attached).
The concerns described in that letter still hold true today. The recovery
plan allows FWS to downlist one of the three northern Rockies wolf
populations only when that population has grown to a minimum of ten
breeding pairs in the recovery area for a minimum of three successive years
(Wolf Recovery Plan, p. 19). The Recovery Plan allows FWS to downlist all
three populations only when two out of the three populations have achieved
this target (Ibid). Thus far, only the central Idaho population has
achieved ten breeding pairs, and only in 1998 (see attached FWS table).
Importantly, the wolf population that will be directly affected by the
proposed status change - the endangered wolf population in northwestern
Montana - is the most imperiled population, having declined from a
population high of seven breeding pairs in 1996, to just five breeding
pairs during the past three consecutive years (Ibid). This population has
added importance as a link between the U.S. Rocky Mountain wolves and wolf
populations in Canada.

More recently, in public presentations and newspaper articles, FWS Wolf
Recovery Leader Ed Bangs has announced a proposal to "lump" the recovery
plan targets from a minimum of ten breeding pairs in each of the three
populations (for a minimum of three consecutive years), to a minimum of
thirty breeding pairs across all three populations. While this may sound
like the same number of wolves, the fragmented status of the current
populations makes these two targets very different. The recovery plan and
a subsequent scientific review of its targets (described in Appendix 9 of
the Wolf Reintroduction FEIS) make it very clear that any wolf population
below ten breeding pairs cannot be considered "recovered." Further, the
majority of scientists reviewing the ten breeding pair target believed that
even populations at or above ten breeding pairs must have interchange with
the outside populations in order to be considered recovered.*

* "It is fairly clear that 10 breeding pairs in isolation will not comprise
a 'viable' population (i.e. have a high probability of survival for a long
period without human intervention)."
- Wolf Reintroduction FEIS, Appendix 9, 6-74, 6-75

While we share the goal of contiguous wolf populations across the northern
Rockies, it has by no means been achieved on the ground. Unless or until
there is free interchange between all three northern Rockies wolf
populations, FWS has no biological basis to "lump" the recovery targets for
these three populations, and has no basis to claim that any wolf population
with fewer than ten breeding pairs is "recovered." These proposed changes
to the wolf recovery program in mid-course are a serious matter that must
be rectified as the apparent new direction is contrary to good science, the
law, and the public interest. Thank you for your consideration and we look
forward to receiving your response.

Sincerely,

David Gaillard, Predator Conservation Alliance, Bozeman, MT
Mike Medberry, American Lands, Boise, ID
Rob Ament,  American Wildlands, Bozeman, MT
Jeff Kessler,  Biodiversity Associates, Laramie, WY
Chuck Pezeshki,  Clearwater Biodiversity Project, Troy, ID
Larry Campbell,  Friends of the Bitterroot, Darby, MT
Gary Macfarlane Friends of the Clearwater, Moscow, ID
Kathy Richmond,  Friends of the West, Clayton, ID
John Horning, Forest Guardians, Santa Fe, NM
Steve Paulson, Gray Wolf Committee, Moscow, ID
Tim Stevens, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Bozeman, MT
Ric Bailey, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, La Grande, OR
Linda Hatfield, Help Our Wolves Live (HOWL), Minneapolis, MN
Patricia Lane, The Humane Society of the United States,
                           Gaithersburg, MD
John McCarthy, Idaho Conservation League, Boise, ID
Jerry Jayne, Idaho Environmental Council, Idaho Falls, ID
Franz Camenzind, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, WY
Mike Peterson, The Lands Council, Spokane, WA
Bob Decker, Montana Wilderness Association, Helena, MT
Philip Knight, Native Forest Network, Bozeman, MT
Joe Scott, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, Bellingham, WA
Len Broberg, Sierra Club, Montana Chapter, Missoula, MT
John Spahr, and Page McNeill, Sierra Club, Wyoming Chapter, Jackson, WY
Rob Edward, Sinapu, Boulder, CO
Danielle and Raymond Schijvijnck, Spiritmates of the Wolf, Roseberg, OR
Bob Ekey, The Wilderness Society, Bozeman, MT
Craig Gehrke, The Wilderness Society, Boise, ID
Nancy Zierenberg, Wildlife Damage Review, Tucson, AZ
Karlyn Berg, Wildlife Education Program and Design, Bovey, MN
Karen Chapman,
Linda Porasso Wolf Alliance International, Fresno, CA
Tom Beno, Wolf Justice League, Maple Valley, WA
Bryony Schwan, Women's Voices for the Earth, Missoula, MT
Dan Heilig, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Lander, WY
Ralph Maughan Pocatello, ID
Brian Peck Wildlife Consultant, Columbia Falls, MT

cc: Mr. Bruce Babbitt, Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior
        Mr. Ed Bangs, Wolf Recovery Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

David Gaillard
Predator Conservation Alliance
(formerly, Predator Project)
P.O. Box 6733
Bozeman, MT 59771
406-587-3389 (ph)
406-587-3178 (fax)
gaillard@wildrockies.org (email)

Please visit our web site at:
http://www.predatorconservation.org


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