Jamie Rappaport Clark, © Defenders of Wildlife

It’s Time for a Serious Course Correction on Wolves

I cannot say I was surprised by the recent peer review report on wolf delisting from a panel of independent scientists. They unanimously concluded that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s (the Service) proposal to strip federal protections for gray wolves across nearly all of the lower 48 states was not supported by the best available science. Ever since the Service announced its delisting proposal, scientists, conservation groups and concerned citizens have been telling the Service that the delisting proposal is premature and shortsighted, and above all, based on bad and incomplete science.

But my lack of surprise does not make the panel’s findings any less egregious; the Endangered Species Act (ESA) expressly requires that listing and delisting decisions be made only on the basis of the “best available science.” Now, the wolf peer review report proves that the Service has failed to properly implement the ESA because it did not use the best available science to guide its decisions on wolf recovery.

Gray wolf, © Sandy Sisti

Gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park

I was director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1997 -2001 and have over 30 years of experience with the ESA. Needless to say, I know what it’s like to make tough calls on species listing and delisting decisions. But no matter how difficult these decisions were in the past, we always based them on the best available science and an optimistic vision of what species recovery should mean. The gray wolf delisting proposal represents a disappointing and flawed departure from the scientific standards that we embraced when I used to work for the Service.

It’s not uncommon for peer review panelists to disagree among themselves during the peer review process. In fact, it’s the job of any peer review committee to raise questions and concerns about the science underpinning the issue or proposal under review. But what was most remarkable about the unanimous panel conclusion repudiating the Service’s science is that the panel had members who professionally disagreed over the underlying policy question of whether wolves should be delisted at all. Thus, despite their differing views on delisting itself, they found themselves in agreement that the science relied upon by the Service was seriously flawed.

In this case, the peer reviewers criticized the Service for relying on just a single scientific report, the Chambers et al. analysis, as the basis for their delisting proposal. They pointed out that that study was highly selective in the data it used. Evidence that did not support the proposal to delist was criticized and dismissed by Chambers et al., whereas evidence that supported the proposal to delist was accepted uncritically. Peer reviewers also said the Service got the taxonomy and range of wolves all wrong in their delisting proposal. For example: gray wolves may have lived in the Northeast, wolves of the Pacific Northwest are likely distinct from other populations, and Mexican gray wolves historically had a much larger range than the Service claimed.

The process used to generate and publish the Chambers study was also problematic. The study was written by scientists from the Service itself and was only published in a Service publication and not by a respected independent journal as one would expect. Mysteriously, the Service’s publication had been defunct for more than 20 years and seemed to have been brought back to life to publish this paper.

If this peer review process tells us anything, it tells us – yet again – that the Service is not treating wolves in the same way it treated the recovery of the bald eagle, peregrine falcon or the American alligator. Each of these species reached recovery throughout their range before being taken off the endangered species list. There is still much unoccupied suitable habitat available for wolves. Delisting should not be considered until wolves reach true recovery.

So now, the Service needs a dramatic mid-course correction on wolves. At each step of this delisting proposal – written comments, public hearings and testimony and now the peer-review process – the Service’s delisting proposal has been called into question for being premature and based upon bad science. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe have repeatedly asserted that the Service will base decisions on the status of wolves only on the best available science. In light of this damning peer review report on wolves, the Service should withdraw its current delisting proposal, and instead chart a sustainable recovery path for wolves that is truly based upon the best science on the subject.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President & CEO 

Click here to ask Secretary Jewell to withdraw this misguided proposal!


Originally published in The Huffington Post

29 Responses to “It’s Time for a Serious Course Correction on Wolves”

  1. Tim Cammers

    I agree with everything you are saying Jamie. Looks like they royally messed up here and now it will cost them big time. We have them by the balls you might say. But they are two near sided to see the truth. We must not let up on them. Keep on charging them and we will win this battle. My wolf brothers and sisters will be free one day. When that day comes I will be happy. 🙂

  2. Pamela Robson

    Wolves have been killed come.back killed off again and again and still come back surely they deserve to run free

  3. tom van lear

    I believe that nature should be left alone to control it self. True man is apart of nature, but removed at times for having a dual nature. One moment thinking one way and the next thinking another. Man should think more about taking care of himself. Nature takes of itself and man takes care of his self and in time comes back together. As of right now Man is the biggest problem nature has. Man collectively make up it’s mind. God bless.

  4. Linda Vaughn

    Wildlife and people who care are so lucky to have you at the head of Defenders of Wildlife. You express yourself beautifully, in easy to understand language that shares your vast knowledge.
    I always read and share the Defenders’ posts. I feel such a strong connection to wildlife that it is very difficult at times for me to read some of the information. It hurts me and stays with me.
    Sometimes, it gets very discouraging to keep signing and sharing and being ignored. I take comfort in going back to the posts and reading the comments that others have left. Validation of how I feel, I guess.
    Thank you for all you do, for keeping us informed and working together.

  5. Geri

    save and protect the wolves!! They deserve to live in this world as we do!!

  6. Angie

    They were put on this earth for a reason like anything else. Leave them alone and let them run free. It is their home as much as anyone else. Pity you did not pay as much attention to actual people casing so much death and destruction in the world.

  7. Mikanuk "Larry D. Adams"

    Truly empirical “scientific methodologies” are not so slanted against an animal species as this blatantly-biased research portends. The “scientific method” utilized ultimately needs to be more objective as well, rather than to “cow-tow” (double entendre intended) to the Senate-Republican-backed bucolic contingent intent on extirpating the Canis Lupus species right off of Terra!

  8. Helena

    What we can do to save the animals, step by step on everywhere are been killed or hurt until no more any kind to survive.

  9. Tina Kurtz

    I’m with you, Jamie. Thank you for the work you do on behalf of wolves and all of nature. We must continue the fight for the protection of wolves. I’ll be looking for further posts and emails regarding this issue and others.

  10. Monika Koestler

    He’s so beautiful. How can ANYONE – even those pea-brained Trigger-happy shits – want to kill anything so wonderful?

  11. Susan Rolleri Hendler

    Nice blog, Jamie! I suspect that the peer review panel did not have the hunting and livestock interests breathing down their neck. I now wonder what will happen if the service goes back to placing all Rocky Mtn. wolves on the endangered list. Will we see states such as Idaho threaten secession?

  12. Leslie griffin

    Short & sweet the wolves need to be on the endanger list at all times there’s
    Propose for them being here so let nature play it’s role in this not humans they are here for a reason STOP THE RUTHLESS KILLINGS!!!!!

  13. Colleen Hunt

    No one anywhere needs wolf pelts or meat. Please protect and preserve wolves. They are worth it.

  14. Michael Guest

    Please protect and save our wolves. They need our help more than ever. Time is now. Hurry.

    • Victoria

      There is no fair chance in wolf hniuntg especially from 500 to 1000 yards. An animal that has no real acknowledgement that a human can harm it in a natural manner is not fair chance. For every wolf there are 300 elk and deer or elk so them hurting the population of prey animals.. Not a chance. And when you see most hunters not even harvesting the animals they shoot but taking the bone from its head? I cant see how wolfs who have to eat those animals just to survive not just get a thrill as humans due, cause any threat to us. Sorry just don’t think we should make hniuntg wolfs a thing in the US especially when the guys who I see kill them would wet their pants if they didn’t have a gun and a wolf got within sight of them.

  15. Calvin B

    I reached out to my Congresswoman yesterday about my concerns over the delisting and got a nice response back. Write to your representative and tell them NO to the delisting!

    Here is her letter back to me:

    Thank you for contacting me with your concerns with wolves, particularly delisting wolves from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. I appreciate that you took the time to express your thoughts and concerns on this matter.

    As you may know, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued guidance to remove wolves in the Western Great Lakes area and Wyoming from the endangered species list. Before I was elected, Congress subsequently passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which included provisions to remove federal protection of the gray wolf in Montana, Idaho, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and north-central Utah. It also prohibited a judicial challenge of the delisting decision.

    Like you, I am concerned that without federal protection, gray wolves can be inhumanely hunted and could once again become an endangered species. I will keep your concerns in mind should legislation pertaining to the federal protection of gray wolves come before the full House of Representatives during this Congress.

    Thank you again for contacting me with your support for federal protection of gray wolf populations. I assure you that I am committed to effectively representing my constituents, and I can only do that when you and your neighbors share your views with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future regarding this or any other issue.

  16. Calvin B

    I forgot to mention that the letter is from Elizabeth Esty for Connecticut. Sorry! 🙂

  17. Jen

    We need to stop this madness. Wolves have the right to be here too. If only we get enough protesters, and get this out there on the main stream media before its too late. Its pretty sad how our own government is allowing wolf slaughtering as a solution, when there are other many alternative ways. Keep blogging and spread the word.

  18. dwiner12

    in the past wolves have been featured in many animatic.if enough word is spread im sure society could press charges on Daniel agger.

  19. Christy Ryan

    We must not falter and we must stay on gaurd with this. With enough pressure the service will change its mind. Has anyone else noticed this all seemes to be just an attack on wolves? I cannot find any information about other species being so attacked! Its all about fear and greed!

  20. Henry

    If you go to google search and put in ‘Stop shooting wolves, you maniacs!’ there will be an article. Then go to stupid reason number 2 and it has a pretty good point.

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