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FWS to Consider Possible Listing of Western Gray Wolf

September 17, 2021 by Dan McCue
A gray wolf.

A pair of petitions seeking a determination that gray wolves are a threatened or endangered species in the western U.S. have convinced federal officials of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take a closer look at the situation.

“The service finds that the petitions [for listing under the Endangered Species Act] present substantial, credible information indicating that a listing action may be warranted and will initiate a comprehensive status review of the gray wolf in the western U.S.,” the agency said in a press release.

The FWS received the first petition on June 1. It was submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, and the Sierra Club, and asked that the gray wolf be listed as threatened or endangered in the northern Rocky Mountain region encompassing the states of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, and a small portion of north-central Utah.

They note in their petition that the states of Idaho and Montana have both recently passed legislation that would allow hunters, trappers and private contractors to kill up to 85% to 90% of a combined population estimated at 2,700 animals.

The second petition was filed by more than 70 wildlife and conservation groups on July 29, specifically seeking protections for gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, California, Nevada, and northern Arizona.

“In the absence of minimum viable population sizes in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and northern Arizona, as well as in suitable wolf habitats in Washington and Oregon west of the Cascade Range, extinction of wolves in these areas is a very strong likelihood in the immediate future,” they wrote. 

The agency found the petitioners presented substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S. 

It also found that new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate to address this threat. Therefore, it said, regulators believe gray wolves in the western U.S. may warrant listing.

Substantial 90-day findings require only that the petitioner provide information that the proposed action may be warranted. 

The next steps for the agency include in-depth status reviews and analyses using the best available science and information to arrive at a 12-month finding on whether listing is warranted. If so, listing a species is done through a separate rulemaking process, with public notice and comment.

The public can submit relevant information to inform the in-depth status review through www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-ES-2021-0106, beginning September 17, 2021, upon publication in the Federal Register, and will include details on how to submit comments.

The 90-day finding and petition review form associated with this announcement are now available for review.

The Federal Register notice will serve as the 90-day finding for both petitions.

In response to Thursday’s developments, Bonnie Rice, Senior Representative for the Sierra Club, said, “Today’s decision by the [Fish and Wildlife] Service is a step toward recognizing serious new threats to wolves from hostile state management policies, but it falls short of granting the emergency protection that wolves need right now.”

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