Fish and Wildlife Service says population has recovered in state
By Paul A. Smith and Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel
April 16, 2011. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Friday to remove federal protections for the gray wolf in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
The agency also said new studies show wolves in the Midwest are distinct from wolves in the eastern United States and eastern Canada.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said wolf populations in the Midwest had met recovery goals and no longer need protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Delisting would allow Wisconsin to enact a state-approved management plan for wolves, which would allow for the killing of wolves that have been shown to kill or harass livestock and pets.
Wolves have increasingly become a point of controversy, with some landowners in the north saying that higher populations have harmed livestock and pets.
The state Department of Natural Resources and many conservation organizations, including the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, support the delisting, while some wildlife groups oppose dropping the protections.
The proposal allows for 60 days of public comment.
This is the third time that steps have been taken to allow Wisconsin to reduce protections for the wolf. Since 2007, the wolf has been declassified from its endangered status for a total of 21 months.
But animal rights groups have protested the actions, and twice have persuaded federal courts to return protections.
This time, the Fish and Wildlife Service said that recent genetic studies show that the gray wolf, Canis lupus, is genetically distinct from eastern wolves, Canis lycaon.
Wildlife groups had been wary about lifting protections on the gray wolf, fearing it would harm their potential revival in the eastern U.S.
The Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Ariz., said the government's announcement was premature.
"Gray wolves remain absent from 95 percent of their former range, and yet the service is eager to declare them recovered," Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney for the organization, said in a statement.
"Instead of pandering to the minority who want to kill wolves, the service should use its legal authority to chart a new course that focuses on national wolf recovery, including recovery for the newly recognized eastern wolf."
The western Great Lakes' wolf population is estimated at more than 4,000 animals, including 2,922 in Minnesota, 557 in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and 690 in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has monitored the state's wolf population for 30 years. The state's population is now well above the 1999 management goal of 350.
In statements, Gov. Scott Walker and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp applauded the proposal.
Walker said it would help "untie our hands so we can start rebuilding public confidence in the state and federal efforts toward wolf conservation and wildlife management."