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Researchers: Include data about societal values in endangered species decisions
Date:12/6/2010

ed to the data used in the agency's ruling.

Under the Endangered Species Act, federal officials must decide whether a species is threatened with or in danger of extinction as a result of any of five "listing factors" that relate to changes to the habitat, disease and predation, or overuse of the species for commercial, recreation, scientific or educational purposes. Those include "other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence."

When the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population was delisted in April 2009, the Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged in its ruling that "human-caused mortality" nearly destroyed the species in the 1930s. However, the agency argued that "attitudes toward wolves have improved greatly over the past 30 years."

In an extensive review of the research associated with the gray wolf delisting, which contained more than 200 citations, the Fish and Wildlife Service included a single 2002 study that examined public attitudes toward wolves.

"This is not for a lack of literature on the topic," Bruskotter said, noting that studies on attitudes about wolves date as far back as the 1970s.

Bruskotter and colleagues summarized four key arguments made by the Fish and Wildlife Service in its decision that the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf is no longer threatened or endangered as follows:

  • Human attitudes are a potential threat to wolves because humans killing wolves initially decimated the species;

  • The threat posed by humans has lessened substantially because public attitudes have improved in recent decades;

  • State management of wolves will foster local support of wolves and wolf recovery; and

  • Existing state regulatory mechanisms will "balance negative attitudes" and ensure recovery.

He and colleagues then analyzed social science research related to each of the agency's arguments to determine whether the Fish and W
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Contact: Jeremy Bruskotter
bruskotter.9@osu.edu
614-247-2118
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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