More than 80 scientists and biologists, including Dr. Jane Goodall, have signed a letter urging Congress to oppose H.R. 424 and S. 164, the “War on Wolves Act” to strip Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming. The scientists point out that critical decisions about imperiled species like wolves should not be the result of outdated public attitudes based on myths, misinformation, and fear. “A basic principle of wildlife management is that it be based on sound science. For that reason, it would be poor governance to manage a wildlife population on the basis of attitudes about wildlife that are profoundly untethered from scientific knowledge about wildlife. The proper role of government in a case like this is to work to ease the misperceptions of that small segment of Americans.” Find the letter at: www.humanesociety.org
An Open Letter to Members of Congress and the White House from Scientists and Scholars on Federal Wolf Delisting and Congressional intervention on Individual Species in the Context of the U.S. Endangered Species Act
We, the undersigned scientists and scholars, urge Congress to refrain from delisting gray wolves (Canis lupus) in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming. In particular, we urge you to oppose H.R. 424 and S. 164. Gray wolves should be protected by the U. S. Endangered Species Act, 1973 (ESA) until the legal requirements for delisting them are met. All listings and delistings decisions should be undertaken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), consistent with the best available scientific data, and pursuant to a robust administrative process that considers input from all stakeholders and experts.
Over the past four decades, we have made incredible progress toward the recovery of wolves. Today, approximately 5500 wolves inhabit about 15% of their historic range within the contiguous United States. While we have made substantial progress toward recovery, the job is not done. Important work remains. In particular, the ESA requires that a species be recovered throughout a larger portion of its historic range than has currently been achieved.1
The American people are supportive of wolf conservation and the ESA2 and we are more than able to handle the work entailed by completing wolf recovery. The essential issues surrounding wolves – livestock losses3, interests pertaining to deer and elk hunting4, perceived threats to human safety5, and legal/political issues6 – are all quite manageable.
Congressional delisting of wolves should be avoided because it would be an inappropriate shortcut. Our treatment of wolves through the ESA is a herald for how we will treat the ESA in general and for the hundreds of species whose well-being depends on ESA protection. Opportunities to work through some important challenges of conservation are cut off if and when Congress intervenes by making decisions about individual species in the context of the ESA. Such intervention can seem like an expedited solution, but its larger effect is to inhibit progress on the broader issues of conservation and ESA implementation.
In recent years, Congress has increasingly made efforts to influence the management of individual species in the context of the ESA. These efforts have been motivated by local and special interests. As such, they eviscerate the essential purpose of federal governance and the ESA, which is to conserve species insomuch as doing so is a national interest. This concern is reinforced by broad public support for wolves and the ESA that transcends political orientation.7
We must get wolf recovery right by developing a healthy relationship with wolves, recognizing the important role they play in our ecosystems and refraining from unjustified persecution. Our actions will be judged by future generations of Americans for the kind of relationship we forge with wolves and the fair treatment of our fellow citizens who are impacted by wolves in a genuinely negative manner. Those relationships, whatever they may be, will say much about the kind of people we are. The American people are supportive of this work and we are more than able to accomplish it.
John Vucetich, Ph.D.
School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
Michigan Technological University Houghton, Michigan
Jeremy Bruskotter, Ph.D. Associate Professor
School of Environment and Natural Resources
Ohio State University
Adrian Treves, Ph.D. Associate Professor Environmental Studies University of Wisconsin Madison, Wisconsin
Michael Paul Nelson, Ph.D.
Ruth H. Spaniol Chair of Renewable Resources and Professor of Environmental Philosophy and Ethics
Depart. of Forest Ecosystems and Society Oregon State University