The Trump administration is continuing its attack on environmental protections. The same week it announced that it would permit extensive logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the government is also stripping federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the contiguous United States — with the exception of a Mexican gray wolf population in Arizona and New Mexico.
A peer review commissioned by the US Fish and Wildlife Service expressed concern about the plan, and 100 scientists and 267 veterinary professionals were among those opposed to delisting gray wolves. The government is moving forward anyway.
The gray wolf population in the US has declined dramatically over the past few decades, with only 6,000 left in the lower 48. Yet, when gray wolves have been reintroduced, as in Yellowstone National Park, they’ve had a beneficial effect on the ecosystem, reducing deer overpopulation and allowing plant life to flourish again.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has not come up with any recovery plan for the wolves, which environmental groups say still need protection. And while delisting transfers authority from federal to state agencies, many of these have shown little interest in supporting gray wolf recovery. States like Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have historically favored a kill-on-sight strategy to wolf management.
Conservationists worry that the species could again disappear from places where their numbers had only recently begun to rebound. Without ESA protections, however, these regions will likely suffer from reduced biological diversity and a diminished ecosystem. Now that this matter is left to states to handle, it could spell disaster for gray wolf populations.