HOWL Colorado

Editorial: Red wolf debacle shows US Fish and Wildlife Service missing spine

The meme spreading around social media this week of President Barack Obama defiantly standing on a doorstep while holding a bald eagle is pretty awesome, but for those of us in the wildlife conservation world, it is also rather ironic, given the way the Obama administration has been retreating from endangered species conservation in recent years.

Not only has it backpedaled sharply away from protecting any form of gray wolf, it also has put forth what many conservation biologists see as an obscene interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, claiming that a species needs to be restored only to some fraction of its historic range in order to qualify as recovered. Under this interpretation, neither bald eagles nor gray wolves would ever have been the focus of conservation efforts in the lower 48 states, since both species were secure in Alaska.

Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is busy working hard to make sure the red wolf program in North Carolina goes away, too, even though the wild red wolf population has dwindled to below 100 animals (compare that with 1,600 wild giant pandas and 4,500 wild snow leopards). After commissioning a 171-page program review from the Wildlife Management Institute last year, this week the agency announced its decision to dial down the red wolf reintroduction effort until yet another review can be conducted. The agency also quietly eliminated the position of the red wolf recovery coordinator. All the signs point toward a U.S. FWS that lacks the guts or the enthusiasm to fight any more for the sake of controversial species…

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