The critique is published online in the journal Conservation Letters.
Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973. The act expanded on previous legislation by providing for the protection of any species in danger of or threatened with extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
The act's language is critical to what follows: In determining whether a species has recovered, the law requires FWS to declare it is no longer endangered in all or a "significant portion of its range." The gray wolf has recovered in the northern Rockies and upper Great Lakes.
The proposed rule, however, discounts the other 85 percent of the wolf's historic range, which stretches across northern states from the west coast through New England and as far east as mid-Texas in the southern half of the country.
"So what the service is saying is that wolves are going to be called recovered in most of the United States despite the fact that very few wolves live outside these two recovered areas," Bruskotter said. "Wherever they are now, that's their range which means taking the historic and geographic component out of the listing process."
He and colleagues suggest that this practice not only disregards the law, but "specifically creates incentive to destroy habitat in advance of a listing and do things that aren't good for endangered species."
The law also requires the service to consider the "best available science" in assessing whether threats have eased and a species is recovered. Instead of citing the dozens of studies that suggest human support for wolf restoration is high, the service simply ignored this research and claimed that these areas are unsuitable because of human intolerance. When federal protection is lifted, species management falls to the states.
|Contact: Jeremy Bruskotter|
Ohio State University