John Motsinger, Communications Specialist
Defenders staff and dozens of wolf advocates showed their true colors yesterday… by wearing gray t-shirts in support of gray wolves! About 100 people chanted, howled and made their voices heard in front of the Interior Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., opposing the premature delisting of wolves nationwide. Even amidst a looming government shutdown, the rally drew much-needed attention to the plight of wolves across the West as they move closer to losing federal protection.
Special guest Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) dropped by to kick-off the rally by talking about the importance of wolves. He noted how dramatically wolves have improved the Yellowstone ecosystem, as well as the economic benefits that wolf tourism has brought to local communities.
Next, Defenders President Jamie Rappaport Clark called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal unacceptable, saying the federal government – our government – is giving up too soon.
“We didn’t stop fighting for bald eagles until they were soaring in the skies from coast to coast. We didn’t quit protecting American alligators until they inhabited estuaries from Texas to the Carolinas. And we shouldn’t abandon wolves now before our work is done.”
Debbie Sease with Sierra Club and Leda Huta with Endangered Species Coalition continued with speeches along similar lines, holding the Fish and Wildlife Service and Obama administration accountable for walking away from wolf recovery. And 6-year old Naoma wrapped up the show with touching poem she wrote with her grandmother.
Even more people attended the public hearing that followed the rally, most of them offering very heart-felt testimony against the proposal to strip federal protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48. Wolf supporters traveled from as far as Florida and Washington State to share their views on wolf recovery. Some shared personal stories of seeing wolves in the wild. Others talked about the important ecological role that wolves play in maintaining nature’s balance. Many decried the unnecessary killing of the beautiful animals that we’ve worked so hard to restore.
Jamie Rappaport Clark also gave expert testimony as the former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Defenders’ Executive Vice President Don Barry, who served as the Interior Department’s Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks during the Clinton administration, spoke on behalf of himself and two others who held his position, all in opposition to the delisting proposal. Defenders also submitted for the hearing record a petition signed by 145,000 Defenders supporters who oppose the proposed delisting, plus nearly 10,000 personalized letters written by wolf advocates expressing their outrage and disappointment with the current proposal.
Not surprisingly, all but a handful of those testifying were there to ask the Fish and Wildlife Service NOT to delist wolves. One of the only people to support delisting was a young representative for Safari Club International who said wolf management should be left to the states, and that doing so would improve social tolerance. Unfortunately, experience to date has proven otherwise. Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have allowed aggressive hunting and trapping of wolves in the last two years that has started to drive populations down with no sign of stopping. Further, the continued persecution of wolves based on myths and fairy tales has only led to more divisiveness.
With gray wolves only occupying about eight percent of their historic habitat and about a third of remaining suitable habitat, how can the federal government declare mission accomplished? We’re confident that a fair and unbiased peer review of the science will show that wolf populations are still not secure across a significant portion of their range. And we’re hopeful that the Fish and Wildlife Service will use that as the basis for maintaining federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves.
Be sure to submit your written comments by the Oct. 28 deadline if you haven’t already done so. Because the federal government is currently shut down, the public hearings scheduled for Sacramento and Albuquerque later in the week have been postponed. But Defenders will still host our training session and a gathering of wolf supporters as previously planned. In the meantime, stay tuned for more details as they become available.
Thanks again to all Defenders members and supporters and all the wolf advocates who turned out in force yesterday to take a stand for wolves! Together, we will ensure that wolves have a brighter future nationwide.