BLOOMINGTON, Min. – Trump administration officials on Thursday snatched the Endangered Species Act protections for grey wolves in most of the U.S., ending long-term federal security measures and imposing states and tribes to oversee poachers.
The U.S. Election Department announced just days before the November 3 election that wolf hunting could resume in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin – an important battleground in the campaign B/W President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
It is the latest in a series of administration actions on the environment that appeal to key blocs of rural voters in the final days of the race, including steps to allow more mining in Minnesota and logging in Alaska.
Both frightened and revered by people, brown wolves have been recovered from near extinction in parts of the country, but are largely absent from their historical range.
Federal wildlife officials claim thriving populations in the western Great Lakes region, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest, ensuring the species’ long-term survival. They argue that wolves do not have to live in every place they populate once they are recovered.
In an announcement by several dozen people attending a national wildlife refuge overlooking the Minnesota River in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, Interior Secretary David Barnhart declared Gray Wolf’s recovery a “milestone of success”.
“In the early 20th century, the Gray Wolf essentially became ghosts throughout America,” Barnhart said, “Today it is not so. “
Former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Aische agreed that the wolves had been recovered and said that it is time for the agency to “move on” to help other wildlife. But he questioned the announcement of the election coming so close.
“It assumes that this is being done for political reasons,” Asha said in an interview.
Some biologists and former government officials who previously reviewed the administration’s proposal for safeguards said it lacked scientific justification. And wildlife advocates worry that the move will be difficult, if not impossible, for wolves to recover in more areas, such as the southern Rocky Mountains and parts of the Northeast.
Adrian Treves, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, said his numbers are sure to fall in the western Great Lakes region, as happened earlier when federal control was lifted. He said the hunting season took its toll and research showed that the absence of federal enforcement embraced hunters.
Scientists at the agency believe that the wolves can continue to expand even without federal listings, although support from the states is considered significant.
Farmers and hunters welcomed this news.
He said Ashleigh Callaway of Pittsville, Wisconsin said that wolves killed 13 of his family’s 13 sheep in July of 2019. Reducing the number of wolves through state-sponsored hunting will help prevent such attacks.
“This is allowing them to be managed at a level to reduce the risk to sheep and cattle,” Callaway said.
The decision puts security in the Southwest for a small population of Mexican grey wolves. This is the latest effort in two decades to return management authority to the states. The courts often reject such moves after opponents file a lawsuit.
Environmental groups said security still needs to shield the small population of wolves in the states of the West Coast, including California, and help them expand into new areas.
“Instead of pursuing further wolf recovery, the Fish and Wildlife Service has adopted the most comprehensive, disastrous current rule yet,” said Colette Adkins with the Center for Biological Diversity.
An initiative on the Colorado ballot next week seeks to revisit the wolves in the coming years. With federal protections removed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have no say about moving forward with the plan if voters approve it.
Most wolves were eliminated in the 1930s under government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns. Some 4,400 animals have expanded in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin since a relic population in the western Great Lakes region.
Six states in the Northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest have more than 2,000 occupations after wolves in Idaho and Yellowstone National Parks, Canada, 25 years ago.
After a lengthy court battle that ended after a congressional intervention, northern Rocky wolves are now under state management and hunted in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
State officials also allowed hunting for Great Lakes wolves for several years in the last decade when security was lifted. The hunt ended when the security was restored under a 2014 federal court order.
Wolves were granted initial federal protection in the late 1960s and were listed as endangered species in 1978, except in Minnesota where they were classified as threatened. As of last year, the government-sponsored recovery effort cost about $ 160 million.
Wolves lose protection in the Federal Register 60 days after the verdict, although the Wildlife Service will continue to monitor their populations for five years.
Wolves have never been legally protected in Alaska with a population of 7,000 to 11,000.