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New Wolf Protection Strategy
National Wildlife Federation Applauds New Wolf Strategy
WASHINGTON, June 29 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Having led the fight to secure
Endangered Species Act protection for wolves and use it to restore
their populations nationwide, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF)
-- the nation's largest private conservation group -- is applauding
new federal plans to enhance species management flexibility in some
areas and step up restoration efforts in others.
"These plans represent a win for wolves and a win for common sense,"
said NWF President Mark Van Putten. "That the time has come to discuss
de-listing and down-listing is proof positive that the Endangered
Species Act is working."
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Director Jamie Clark announced plans to create a wide-ranging new wolf
strategy today during a Forest Lake, Minn., news conference, with Van
Putten by their side. In his biggest acknowledgment to date of
Endangered Species Act (ESA) successes for wolves, the secretary
stated that wolves in the Great Lakes region have reached recovery
goals and can probably be de-listed. He and Clark announced plans to
draft a proposal that would "de-list," or completely remove from
federal ESA protection, wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and
Michigan. Wolf recovery in these states has been tremendously
successful, with populations growing from 600 to 2,500 animals.
De-listing would give the states and Native American tribes primary
responsibility for keeping the recovery going.
In the Rocky Mountain West, the new plans call for "down-listing"
wolves from endangered to threatened in acknowledgment of their
comeback under ESA protections. The impact of the reclassification
will be largely the same as the 1995 designation of reintroduced
wolves in Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho as "experimental
populations" -- a move encouraged by NWF, and which allowed the effort
to overcome opposition and become one of America's great wildlife
success stories. Like the experimental designation, threatened status
will give federal and state wildlife authorities greater flexibility
in tailoring common-sense management plans to meet the needs of both
wildlife and local people, while maintaining basic wolf protections.
"Greater flexibility means a better chance for people and wolves to
co-exist," said Van Putten.
NWF cautioned that it will need to carefully review the "fine print"
to ensure that nothing in state or federal plans could undermine the
health or recovery of wolf populations. Assuming that adequate state
funding and will are present to keep recovery progressing, the
organization supports both the down-listing and de-listing initiatives
as "big steps in the right direction."
"These changes amount to the Endangered Species Act keeping its
promise," said Van Putten. "Federal management took the wolves from
critical condition to recovery and now it's time to let the folks back
home take over and keep them healthy. That's how the Act is supposed
Success stories in-the-making involving existing recovery plans for
Red and Mexican wolves will proceed unchanged. But in a new
initiative, the Interior Department's plans call for stepped-up
exploration of wolf recovery options in the Northeast, focusing on the
remote areas of the Adirondacks and the North Woods.
"It's exciting to see a new emphasis on restoring the wildlife
heritage of the Northeast," commented Tom France, who heads NWF's
legal efforts at wolf restoration. "The howl of the wolf has been gone
from there for too long."
NWF and its independent state affiliates have played a long and
important role in wolf restoration efforts nationwide, both in helping
to tailor common sense management plans to secure wolf recovery and in
educating the public concerning facts and myths surrounding the
animals. Once the plans are formalized, an extensive public comment
period will follow, with much criticism expected from both sides of
the endangered species debate. Opponents will battle over charges that
the moves provide either inadequate or too much protection for the
wolves. Federal involvement will be another expected hot point, with
differing sides squaring off over boosting or lessening the federal
"This strategy strikes just the right balance, providing what good
science and good sense demand," said Van Putten. "Recovery efforts
will get the focus, the flexibility and the increased public support
they need to keep working. And wolves get a shot at a future off of
the endangered list."