No reason to howl about wolf delisting

We’re pleased to see that Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and the Obama administration agree with their predecessors in one respect: The gray wolf is no longer an endangered species.

Hence the decision this week to delist the wolf populations in the Northern Rockies and the Great Lakes region, something the Bush team also did, only to see its efforts thwarted by lawsuits.

Despite the howls from some environmental groups again this time, the science behind the delisting is sound.

An estimated 4,000 wolves populate the northwoods near Lake Superior in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. And there are more than 1,300 wolves in the Northern Rockies territory that includes the mountains of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. At least two of those wolves have traveled as far south as Colorado in the past five years.

Biologists hoped to develop a self-sustaining population of 300 wolves in the Northern Rockies when they began transplanting the animals. As one official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s wolf program put it, “We’ve exceeded our recovery goals for nine consecutive years, and we fully expect those trends will continue.”

No wonder Salazar told members of Congress that he was “confident the science justifies the delisting of the gray wolf.”

One thing that drives environmentalists mad is that Idaho, Montana and Wyoming all have plans to reinstitute wolf hunting. They paint scenarios in which the wolves are rapidly driven to the brink of extinction once more by poorly monitored hunting.

That’s unlikely to occur, however, because state officials know if wolf population numbers tumble too far, relisting and renewed federal oversight of the animals is a probable outcome.

Even Wyoming’s much-disputed hunting plan would allow only a few animals to be killed each year, and it would strictly monitor where they are hunted.

It’s in the interest of all three states to ensure there are healthy, viable wolf populations in those states.

That’s the status of the wolf populations in both the Northern Rockies and the Great Lakes area today, and why it makes sense for Salazar approve the delisting.


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