A plan by the federal government to end protection for gray wolves received mixed reactions from environmental groups to ranchers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has drafted a plan to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states. That would leave the states in charge of wolf management.
Ramona Phillips, a rancher in Joseph, Oregon, says even if the federal government ends protections for wolves, she’s not optimistic that things will get any better for her and other ranchers if states take over management of wolf populations.
“I absolutely don’t think it will impact us at all and I think it is a way for the federal government to not have to spend any more money or time on the wolves here,” she says.
Cattle ranchers in the northeastern portion of Oregon have to live with the Imnaha wolf pack. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife released it’s official count earlier this year. It estimates there are 6 breeding pairs and a total of 46 wolves in the northeast section of Oregon.
Don Barry with Defenders of Wildlife says delisting the gray wolf could impede reintroduction of wolves beyond their current range in the West.
“Wolves are still not recovered in key parts of their range," he says. "Delisting at this point could preclude the return of wolves in Utah or California or Colorado.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to our request for comment. But we did get a copy of the draft report.
The draft rules say that the gray wolf species, known in the science world as “Canis Lupus” is too broad a term. It says much of the wolves’ historical range and habitat no longer exist. That’s why the service says, it’s no longer valid to treat all gray wolves as a single species when it comes to the Endangered Species Act.
Instead, the federal agency decided to break them up into four sub-categories. In all but one of these groupings, the Fish and Wildlife Service says gray wolves are not at risk of extinction. The one exception: Mexican wolves in the southwest, which the service is proposing their protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The service will remain open to listing additional subspecies of wolves if populations are determined to be in danger of extinction.
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