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Cascade wolves to lose federal protection?

Posted by Jasmine Minbashian at Apr 26, 2013 05:40 PM |
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The news broke this week that the US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering eliminating protections for most wolves across the lower 48 states. Conservation Northwest supports protecting wolves in the conterminous US under the Endangered Species Act until they have fully recovered, especially vulnerable packs such as those returning to Washington’s Cascade Mountains.

Cascade wolves to lose federal protection?

A wolf from the BC coast fishing salmon. Screen shot from BBC film, Land of the Lost Wolves.

The news broke this week that the US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering eliminating protections for most wolves across the lower 48 states.  

Conservation Northwest supports protecting wolves in the conterminous US under the Endangered Species Act until they have fully recovered, especially vulnerable packs such as those returning to Washington’s Cascade Mountains.  We therefore oppose the US Fish and Wildlife’s proposal to remove protections for all wolves living outside of the Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes, and a small area in the Southwest. 

The wolves in western Washington are special and deserve special protection. Cascade wolves include descendents of wolves living in coastal British Columbia, who lived separately from inland wolves for many generations.  Over time, the coastal wolves adapted to local climatic and habitat conditions, creating a unique genetic profile.  In addition to carrying DNA from coastal British Columbia, our Cascade wolves are different than those in the Rockies in other ways too:  they are smaller in size; more reddish brown in color; and eat more salmon when available.  Washington’s wolves deserve to be recognized as a distinct population worthy of protection under the Endangered Species Act. 

With fewer than twenty wolves in the Cascades, (there are only three confirmed packs and only one confirmed breeding pair), delisting is premature and also not supported by science. Wolves west of the Rockies are pretty scarce, and at a fragile stage. Loss of protection now could put at risk “seed” packs like the Teanaway and Wenatchee Pack that are critical to establishing a viable population in the Cascades and Coast.  Just in the last year, two Teanaway pack members were killed by people. In 2008, the Lookout Pack was nearly wiped out due to illegal poaching.

Lookout Pack poacher
Lookout Pack poacher

Federal delisting exposes this tenuous recovery process to risk. While Washington does have a quality state plan that calls for recovery in the Cascades/Coast, its penalties for poaching a wolf are minimal and subject to local politics. Without the more strict penalties that come with Endangered Species Act protection (up to $50,000 and a year in jail), discouraging illegal killing is much more of a challenge.

While Conservation Northwest opposes delisting of wolves in the Pacific Northwest, we conversely would also have a concern about western Washington being tied to recovery objectives for the larger Pacific region that includes western Oregon and California. Washington could likely reach recovery goals sooner due to its proximity to source populations (Idaho, and both coastal and inland British Columbia). It would therefore be important for western Washington to have increased management flexibility and state management authority after recovery objectives had been reached in the state rather than waiting for populations south of the Columbia River to recover.   

We call on the USFWS to recognize Washington’s Cascades wolves as a distinct population, and continue to offer them protection as a threatened species. This approach would allow all the aspects of the Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan to be fully implemented, while allowing for higher federal poaching fines and greater accountability to recovery goals.

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wolves ARE rare and need protection

Posted by Lianne Lindeke at Apr 27, 2013 12:15 PM
This is absolutely ridiculous and the human actions (or lack thereof) around this issue are dangerous. I strongly encourage lawmakers and policy changers to look past the myths and fear-mongering about these animals and see that they are part of a very delicate life-cycle, where everything's connected. We need wolves as much as we need fish in the sea, bees to pollinate and birds in the sky - because we all work together in a delicate balance that results in life on Earth!

already

Posted by EP at Apr 27, 2013 12:40 PM
Aren't wolves east of the cascades already delisted? Has the state plan been serving THEM well? So far Wedge Pack done, politics pushing the envelope. I have my doubts, especially as we make it ok to shoot wolves "in the act" (I've already heard from my neighbours that they will bait wolves to make it seem like they were caught in the act)

wolf DPS

Posted by Mitch Friedman at Apr 29, 2013 11:28 AM
Good questions, EP. Yes, wolves are federally delisted east of the Okanogan River. Whether or not the state plan is serving well is complicated. There have certainly been problems, such as the Wedge Pack, and successes, such as the range rider pilot CNW and DFW established with the Dawson family in the area of the Smackout Pack. But the big picture is this: We've got at least nine active packs, and it wouldn't surprise me if that number almost doubles in coming months.

In short, I think that's what wolf recovery looks like: Rapid increase in wolf numbers with occasional painful drama over depredations, lethal removal and/or poaching.

The main focus of CNW is to minimize the drama in NE WA by modeling tools (we'll have three range rider pilot projects this year) to reduce conflict while maintaining diligent protections (federal listing, high poaching fines) in the Cascades to boost the speed of recovery there.

and another thing...

Posted by Mitch Friedman at Apr 29, 2013 04:56 PM
I forgot to reply to EP's comment about baiting. Any use of attractants (deliberate or otherwise) that draws in carnivores is illegal in the state, both before and after this rule. Your neighbors would be fined both for that and for poaching.

poachers

Posted by carrie at Apr 27, 2013 08:55 PM
If there are pictures of the poachers, have they been caught? Fined? What actions have been taken? Please keep the wolves on the endangered species list. Also, can you use face recognition software to ID the poacher in the picture and list his name and where's he's from? Social pressure may help him stop.

caught

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Apr 27, 2013 08:58 PM
Carrie, This is a well-known poaching case here in WA. They have already been caught and paid fines, etc. You can read more about it on our site: http://www.conservationnw.org/[…]/lookout-pack-poachers-sentenced

Wolf protection.

Posted by Gloria Picchetti at May 10, 2013 11:12 AM
It's a mistake not to protect wolves. There aren't that many of them in the Cascades.

Protection des loups

Posted by Brigitte at May 13, 2013 12:13 PM
A question that is invading the wolf or human? This is indeed humans who monopolize the land, forests, oceans. Most people do not recognize as valuable wildlife living entities ... But viewed them as pests ... As such, humans have invented laws against animals and the courts when it comes to punish human abuses are lax. However, a wild animal that collects livestock for because of man, there is less prey, it is punishable by death! There is a glaring injustice. And the hour or so species are threatened, all lives must be spared to preserve the local ecosystem. If there is more or not enough predators, other species will proliferate at the expense of forests especially! These same people will turn to these species as nuisibiles and seek to get rid of ... And when there will be more animals in the wild, she will die! And the human race with! The reason modern men today with profitability, profit ... And lack of the most comprehensive intelligence to live in harmony with nature. We urgently need to invent tomorrow's world so that our descendants can live in good conditions! So the wolves must remain protected as long as men are not able to live in harmony with their environment and the wildlife that inhabits species status.

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