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Independent Scientific Panel Rebukes Science in Federal Government's Wolf Delisting Rule

Andrew Wetzler

Posted February 7, 2014

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Yellowstone wolf in snow (National Park Service) (photo by Jim Peaco; December 2003)Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released an independent scientific review of its proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves in the lower-48. The panel was specifically asked to evaluate the Service’s proposed recognition of several new subspecies of gray wolves, including the existence of an “Eastern wolf.” Much of the government’s case for removing protections for wolves hinges on these complex “taxonomic” issues.  It’s hard to describe the results of the panel’s analysis as anything less than devastating to the Fish and Wildlife Service. 

According to the Final Report (which you can read here): “There was unanimity among the panel that the rule does not currently represent the ‘best available science’”

To understand why this is such an important conclusion, you have to keep two key points in mind:

First, the Endangered Species Act mandates that decisions to list and delist species under the Act shall be made “soley on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available,” so the fact an independent panel of experts commissioned by the Service has now concluded that the best science wasn’t used is incredibly important.

Second, the panel contained a wide variety of viewpoints, including a member of the research group that first proposed the existence of an Eastern wolf, a wolf geneticist who works with another group that has been very skeptical of those claims, a highly reputable ecologist that does not specialize in wolves, and (full disclosure) a PhD geneticist who works for NRDC.  Yet, despite this variety of opinion and experience, all of the scientists reached a consensus conclusion.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened its public comment process in light of this report.  I expect that it will hear an earful about the quality of its science.  There’s an old proverb: "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”  Right now, the Obama Administration would be wise to heed that advice and abandon their delisting plan.

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Mary JoFeb 8 2014 12:29 PM

Please do the right thing based on scientific facts.

Sherree IllingworthFeb 8 2014 02:16 PM

Save Our Wolves

Aster Arwen-LaFountainFeb 8 2014 03:34 PM

The wolves are an important part of the Eco-System. Since they've been hunted, the deer and elk population has grown at an unhealthy rate! Now, the Deer and Elk are being hunted for profit. If we keep doing this, eventually none of these animals will be left. In addition, crows and certain types of trees will start disappearing in various parts of the country. Elk and deer might become extinct. There will most likely be a rise in coyote attacks, and less carrion to be eaten by magpies, coyotes, crows, eagles, ravens and bears! Just by putting this species on the endangered list, you could save a lot of land and a lot of animal's lives (not just the wolves).

Joe ScmidtFeb 8 2014 10:06 PM


Donna L. HarrisFeb 8 2014 10:34 PM

Pleas put the wolves back on the endangered list.

Ana Luisa Luque M.Feb 9 2014 12:54 AM

No more killing of wolfs, PLEASE.

Susan RappFeb 9 2014 01:34 AM

I fully support putting wolves back on the endangered species list. They need to be
protected from the wackos of planet Earth.

Marie PfiermanFeb 9 2014 08:18 AM

Another government agency fails to do their job correctly. Thank God people are paying attention.

PAT FLAIRTYFeb 9 2014 10:11 AM


Louise CarnigliaFeb 9 2014 07:55 PM

We do need predators as much as prey. These movements to permit open season on wolves and other predators are usually driven by businesses such as livestock. Those businesses need to find other ways to protect grazing animals.

Nick TrimbleFeb 10 2014 01:27 PM

There is no reason to remove wolves from the Endangered Species Act. I hope that the NRDC is successful in the fight against wolf hunting. I have loved wolves all of my life and if they are removed and hunted the Fish and Wildlife would have done nothing but completely destroy my hopes and dreams of living closer to wolves and one of the only things I love. I hope that they give up their proposal to kill one of this planet's most beautiful creatures that does not deserve to die and let them live in peace.

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