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E-M:/ Wolf Followup from USFWS and DNR

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

Enviro-Mich - 

The following is from Mike DeCapita of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
East Lansing Field Office, and was put together with assistance from Ron
Refsnider of USFWS and Lori Sargent of MDNR in reaction to my previous posting
expressing concern about the comeback of the wolf in Michigan and proposed
downlistings.  Thanks to Mike, Ron and Lori for clarifying my
misinterpretations.  Mike also offered up web-sites on the wolf issue which
would be useful for all following this topic!

Anne Woiwode

Hello Anne,

I read your enviro-mich message regarding wolf recovery.  I want to try and
clarify the issue regarding criteria for federal reclassification
(downlisting from E to T) and delisting.  Your message contains some
statements that point to confusion between state and federal wolf recovery
plans, and the difference between reclassification (endangered to threatened)
and delisting (recovery) criteria.

The 1992 Federal Recovery Plan (Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf,
USFWS, Twin Cities MN, 1992) is the source for these criteria for federal
decisions on reclassification and delisting.  It states, in the summary on p.

"Reclassification Criterion:  The Wisconsin wolf population should be
reclassified to threatened status when the late-winter Wisconsin population is
maintained at 80 wolves for three consecutive years.  Reclassifying Michigan
wolves also may be considered at that time."

A second population of 100 wolves if within 100 miles of MN population, or 200
wolves if beyond 100 miles from MN, for 5 consecutive years is part of the
criterion for recovery, or delisting.

The Service has decided that approved plans for wolf management in MN, MI, and
WI will be an important factor in our delisting decision, although they are
not required.  However, what these state plans say does not determine the
federal reclassification criteria for Wisconsin and Michigan which are
1)survival of wolf assured in MN and 2) 80 wolves for 3 consecutive years in
WI.  The Federal plan also states that 100 wolves in MI and WI, closely tied
to the MN population, would be a viable population.

The 1992 federal plan discusses the recovery and reclassification criteria,
along with the meaning of viable populations, in more detail beginning on
page 24.  Population goals for planning purposes are presented in Table 1 on
page 28. This table indicates goals of 80 wolves for WI, 80-90 wolves for MI.

Wolf numbers in Wisconsin and Michigan combined have exceeded 80 each year
since 1994, and have exceeded 80 in Wisconsin alone each year since 1995.
Thus, the Federal recovery plan criteria for Federal reclassification in
Michigan and Wisconsin was met after winter 1996-1997.

In 1997, the Service reconvened the eastern timber wolf recovery team to ask
them, among other things, whether they still believed the recovery criteria
in the 1992 recovery plan were sound.  In a January 10 1998 letter to the
Service, the team reaffirmed and clarified the recovery criteria.  In that
letter, the team stated "It is the concensus of Team members that the
criteria for recovery provided by the Recovery Plan are still necessary and
sufficient, and that recovery goals for reclassification have now been met.
For the Gray Wolf in the western Great Lakes area, the team
recommends...reclassification from 'endangered' to 'threatened'."

You also state that the Michigan plan requires 200 wolves in the state for 5
years for reclassification to occur.  I assume that you are referring to the
wolf's state legal status, rather than federal status.  But 200 wolves for 5
years could allow state delisting, rather than reclassification. The Michigan
criterion for reclassification from state-endangered to state-threatened is
identical to the federal numerical criterion for federal delisting:  100
wolves in Wisconsin-Michigan for 5 consecutive years.

One other important point is that Minnesota wolves remain federally protected.
Even if "the current politics [in Minnesota] might just as well adopt a plan
that is not adequate to assure a source population [for Michigan]" (extracted
from your third to last paragraph), such a MN plan cannot be implemented if
it would result in actions that violate the ESA. The federal ESA over-rides
any conflicting state law or state management plan.

To summarize, federal downlisting or reclassification (endangered to
threatened in MI and WI) does not require 100 wolves in the 2 states for 5
years, only 80 wolves in Wisconsin for 3 years and the survival of the wolf
in Minnesota be "assured".  100 wolves for 5 years is one of the criteria for
complete Federal delisting, the other is that the survival of the wolf in
Minnesota be "assured".

As of this time, the Service has not decided what course to follow in response
to developments in Minnesota.  But, you are correct that a proposal to
reclassify wolves in Michigan and Wisconsin is one possible course we could

Please feel free to contact me (517-351-6274) or Ron Refsnider in our regional
office (612-713-5346, ron_refsnider@fws.gov)if we can further clarify any
issues regarding federal wolf recovery, reclassification or delisting.  In
addition, you may contact Lori Sargent with MDNR Wildlife Division
(517-373-1263, SARGENL2@s tate.mi.us) with any questions on the State of
Michigan wolf plan or State ESA.  I realize many of these wolf issues are
complex, and we all need to do our very best to ensure that the public is
provided accurate information upon which to base their opinion.  Ron and I
will do our best to help you out with facts and interpretations of federal
policy and regulations.

Mike DeCapita
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
East Lansing Field Office
with assistance from Ron Refsnider and Lori Sargent


I presume sometime in the near future, we will be publishing a proposed rule.
It is likely to be rather complex.  Along with that there will be a public
comment period, including public meetings of some sort, maybe hearings, as
part of the process.  So we want people to be well informed.  I didn't think
to add to the message that we have a wolf web site, a wolf mailing list
(people can add their names at the web site) and even a wolf call in number
(612-713-7337) for people to communicate with and obtain info from FWS on this

Our Regional Endangered Species Web site is:


     see Wolf Tracks under What's New or go directly to

     or http://www.fws.gov/r3pao/wolf/tracks2.pdf

     and see Gray Wolf under Featured Creatures or go directly to



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