“Battling Biologists!” An Essay from Campaign for Yellowstone’s Wolves 

From Campaign for Yellowstone’s Wolves  November 24, 2015 
Battling Biologists!
In an open letter last February, over fifty biologists urged keeping the gray wolf on the U.S. endangered species list, which means no recreational hunting or trapping of wolves. However, about half as many biologists just wrote a letter opposing federal protection for wolves in the Great Lakes region of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
The pro-listing biologists point out that the gray wolf today inhabits a mere fraction of its previous range in the U.S., and that its recovery from historic decimation by guns, traps, and poisons is still very much underway. Wolves are still missing from vast areas of habitat, such as the southern Rocky Mountains and the northern plains. Delisting therefore should not occur until the species as a whole has recovered. This position corresponds to a federal court ruling that U.S. District Judge Howell made in 2014, one that required the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put the wolf back on the endangered list in the Great Lakes region.
In sharp contrast, the de-listing biologists argue that wolves have been successfully restored to the tri-state Lakes region considering that there are now several thousand of them. They favor removing federal protection for wolves where the species has made somewhat of a comeback, thereby allowing state-sponsored wolf “harvests” as long as they do not jeopardize the local population. These biologists want Judge Howell’s ruling overturned, if not in court then by Congress through legislation that would force wolf delisting. 
Why this battle of the biologists? I believe it reflects a broader cultural divide in this country as to how we relate to wildlife. The pro-listing biologists tend to have a “conservation biology” perspective while the de-listing biologists tend to see wildlife through a “management” prism, one that is pro-hunting, less compassionate toward wild animals, and less encompassing in terms of conservation.
While the letter from the pro-listing biologists appealed directly to Congress, the opposing one from the de-listing biologists went to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. This is odd because Sec. Jewell does not have power to overturn a court ruling. Therefore, it appears their letter was really intended to boost the wolf delisting legislation before Congress right now, and to reduce the likelihood of a veto should that legislation reach the president’s desk. (Surely, the president would consult with his Interior secretary before making a decision.)
As a wildlife biologist, I find it quite reckless that some in my profession would encourage such a blunt political route to removing wildlife from the national endangered species list. It’s an awful way for the nation to determine whether a troubled species should be listed or not. If these biologists are so sure that their interpretation of “conservation” is correct (as boldly asserted in their letter) they should be able to persuasively argue the matter before the court. 
You may be wondering how this situation relates to Yellowstone wolves, a main concern of this Facebook page. It just so happens that the wolf delisting legislation before Congress pertains also to Wyoming as well as to the Great Lakes region. If it becomes law, wolf hunting will almost certainly begin again along the long invisible boundary between that state and Yellowstone/Grand Teton parks. And that means more killing of our national park wolves. 
Well now, I don’t want to leave you with that troubling thought this Thanksgiving week. So how about this: 
Let us be thankful to live in a country with wolves, and with people who cherish their quintessential wild spirit – utterly devoted and untamed.
Essay by Tony Povilitis
For more on the opposing letters see: Science Insider
HAPPY THANKSGIVING from Campaign for Yellowstone’s Wolves

Poster by Campaign for Yellowstone’s Wolves

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