Wolf Expert

December 05, 2008

Here we go again

Only 10 days after withdrawing their 2007 Northern Rockies wolf delisting proposal, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reopened a comment period on same proposal.

The 30 day comment period closed last Friday despite requests from many groups - including us - for public meetings and an extension of the comment period.  We can only assume the current Bush administration is preparing to rush through and reissue a new final delisting rule before leaving office. 
 
Since USFWS did not address the inadequacy of Wyoming’s state law and wolf management plan, the agency now appears to be proposing to delist only a portion of the Northern Rockies by excluding Wyoming. 

However, the ESA only allows listing and delisting decisions at the species, subspecies or DPS levels and not in a piecemeal fashion as proposed.  Such an approach would only serve to highlight serious problems in state wolf management plans.

For example, the official policy of the state of Idaho, per its legislature, is that wolves should be eradicated from its borders. Although Judge Molloy’s preliminary ruling in Defenders of Wildlife v. Hall did not specifically address the adequacy of these other state plans, serious issues remain and we strongly believe that Idaho’s plan, in addition to Wyoming's, does not provide adequate protections for wolves. Third, the current proposal allows more than 1000 wolves (all but 300 - 450) to be killed in the region. 

At that reduced level, the wolf population cannot achieve important connectivity and genetic exchange. The USFWS has not documented population levels necessary for such connectivity and genetic exchange. Instead, the agency is now proposing a scheme to truck wolves between recovery areas to attempt to artificially replicate genetic exchange. Such extreme efforts clearly indicate that the species has not fully recovered and needs continued federal protection.

Before delisting may take place, the ESA requires recovery in a functioning ecosystem, not artificial maintenance of a captive or heavily manipulated population.  “[The purpose of the ESA is to promote populations that are self-sustaining without human interference.” [emphasis added]  Trout Unlimited v. Lohn, No. CV06-0483-JCC, 2007 WL 1795036, at *15 (W.D. Wash. June 13, 2007) (citing 16 U.S.C. § 1531(b); Interagency Cooperative Policy for the Ecosystem Approach to the ESA, 59 Fed. Reg. 34,273, 34,274 (July 1, 1994) (agency policy is to “[d]evelop and implement recovery plans ... in a manner that restores, reconstructs, or rehabilitates the structure, distribution, connectivity and function upon which ... listed species depend”).

 Until science and law prevail over political schemes, we're back to another fight over wolf delisting.

May 22, 2008

Spotlight On: Carter Niemeyer

Carter Niemeyer is the former Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Although now retired, he contines to work with wolves on a contractual basis with the Idaho Fish and Game department. He has been working on wolf issues in the Northern Rockies for more than 20 years, and was the recipient of the Wolf Recovery Foundation's "Alpha Award" in 1998.

I picked Carter's brain about his time working with wolves, and his valuable insights are below:

1). When did you first become interested in wolves and why?

I became interested in wolves out of necessity when I worked for Wildlife Services as a biologist/supervisor in western Montana in the mid-1980s.  Wolves began to naturally immigrate into northwest Montana from Canada and prey on livestock in that region.  It was my job to help stop depredations on livestock and to develop skills in capturing wolves and establish communications between the various groups affected by our actions including livestock producers and organizations, federal, state and Tribal agencies, conservation groups and the general public.  Out of necessity, I became an expert on wolf management issues and spent most of my career working to solve human/wolf/livestock conflict issues while at the same time working to help wolves recover in the Northern Rockies.

2). What do you think is the most important issue Northern Rockies wolves face today, and what can we do to help?

Co-existence with man is the principle issue in my opinion.  Wolves carry a lot of baggage -- from myth and fairy tale stories that feed people's fears to their need to survive as carnivores by eating meat including elk and deer that sportsmen want to occasionally killing pets and livestock, which causes emotional and economic hardship for farmers and ranchers.  Federal and state wolf managers need to carefully balance the needs of a diverse human society that fears and resents the wolf with those who love and admire the wolf.  Precisely because of the public's mixed attitudes and values regarding the wolf, managers must find ways to establish trust among everyone. It is the only way that wolves will survive in perpetuity.

3). What is the most rewarding experience you can remember during the long time that you have been working with wolves?

Each new experience I have with wolves seems to be more rewarding than the last, but I believe that resolving wolf conflicts with people has been the most rewarding of all.  I have been blessed with people skills and I can usually talk reason into anybody.  Also, I've used my skills as a hunter and trapper to capture, collar, and relocate many wolves that would otherwise have been killed for their transgressions (killing pets or livestock, or living to close to humans).  In a few instances I was required to kill wolves because I lacked other choices.  I have personally captured over 240 wolves in my career and the vast majority lived to see another day.

4). Are you hopeful for the future of wolves in the Northern Rockies region?

I'm optimistic that wolves are here to stay, at least in the Northern Rockies.  Wolf managers estimate that we have more than 1,500 wolves in 192 packs with individual wolves dispersing throughout the recovery areas. They are showing up in Washington, Oregon, Utah and one even ventured into Colorado before it was killed.  We have a viable wolf population with excellent genetic diversity.  The federal reintroduction team did an excellent job creating a foundation upon which to build and maintain a wolf  population that everyone to enjoy.  The problem isn't the wolf, it’s human/wolf conflicts both real and perceived, and these will most likely never go away.

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