Embarrassing Press Coverage Continues For USFWS National Wolf Delisting Push…..

Wolf Pups Snoozing

Wolf Pups Snoozing

February 26, 2014

USFWS  continues to take heat over their politically transparent push to nationally delist gray wolves. They’ve never looked more inept or disingenuous as they attempt to twist the ESA into silly putty to suit their agenda.


Deadline Midnight March 27, 2014



Feds’ postponement of wolf delisting follows embarrassing scientific review

 February 26, 2014 Earth Journal
By Ron Meador | 02/25/14
It’s too soon to tell, I guess, whether this month’s decision to take more public comment on federal wolf protections will change the policy eventually adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But if you’re inclined to believe, or even just to hope, that sound science still has a role in such decisions — well, this embarrassing episode may be worth a closer look. The picture you’ll see is not pretty.

It’s probably fair to say that wolves are by far the biggest headache that Fish and Wildlife has been handed under the Endangered Species Act. Wolves have had ESA protections for four decades now, and for more than half that time the service has been working actively to shed its responsibilities for these worshipped and detested predators, battling an assortment of national groups at every turn.

What looked like maybe the last of those turns came in June, when FWS announced its plan to end protection of gray wolves throughout the remainder of the lower 48 where authority hadn’t already been turned back to the states.

However, such delisting decisions are legally required to be rooted in the “best available science,” and here the service had a problem: Its primary foundation for this delisting was a single paper laying out a fairly controversial re-classification of wolf species.

One species or two?

That paper, by Steven M. Chambers and three others, came down squarely in favor of seeing North American gray wolves as being of two types:

  • Those that have been recovering in the western U.S., with two populations sufficiently robust to justify their delisting in a zone of the northern Rockies and the region covering Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
  • Others of a separate “eastern” species that supposedly was native to but is now essentially extinct in 29 states west of the Mississippi.

Plenty of other wolf biologists and animal geneticists think that question is far from settled — and more than a few actually think it has been settled in the opposite direction of Chambers’ conclusion, with all gray wolves belonging to just one species.

The science of these things is complex and technical, as you might expect, rooted in DNA mapping and requiring judgments as to whether DNA differences detected among wolves are permanent or temporary, results of evolutionary divergence or interbreeding convergence, and so on.

But if the differences at the molecular level are tiny, at the policy level they could hardly be larger.

The gray wolf has Endangered Species Act protection until FWS can prove it’s no longer needed; “eastern gray wolves,” if they exist, have never been protected and presumably never will be, since virtually all of the territory that would be considered their natural range has been wolfless for a long, long time.

In another policy decision that has brought sharp criticism recently, FWS has chosen to define the “natural and historic range” of a threatened species as whatever territory it occupied at the time of being listed for protection — not its historic territory. Some critics see this as an effort to rewrite the ESA by recasting its most important definition.

In-house research project

There were some other problems with the Chambers paper, too:

  • Chambers is an FWS employee. So are his three collaborators. Their work was published in an FWS journal,  “North American Fauna” without peer review. (The paper can be found here.)
  • In forming a peer review panel after publication, a private contractor hired by FWS first selected and then de-selected three national wolf experts who had signed a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell expressing doubts about the service’s move toward delisting. (Among the three was John Vucetich, known to MinnPost readers as director of the Isle Royale study of wolf/moose population dynamics.)

FWS claimed at the time that it had no role in the picking and unpicking, but a reporter for MSN News turned up an email in which the three were told by the contractor that, “I understand how frustrating it must be, but we have to go with what the service wants.”

The only way out of the ensuing embarrassment was to halt that review and arrange for a second, this one to be undertaken by five scientists chosen without the service’s knowledge or involvement, and their work was released earlier this month.

It happens that one of the five, Robert Wayne of UCLA, was also among the three bounced from the first panel. But as the panel’s report puts it:

[W]e did not avoid selecting reviewers who had previously made known their personal (as opposed to scientific) opinions on the issue. This distinction is important; it is entirely possible for a scientist to have a strong opinion on policy or a proposed action, but also for that scientist to make an impartial assessment on (for instance) the precise genetics or taxonomic techniques and data that were used.

In any case, the five were assigned to give no thought to the policy aspects of the delisting proposed by FWS but to consider only its scientific basis for making them. And its conclusions are rather stark:

  • There was unanimity among the panelists that, although there was much good scientific work in the Proposed Rule, the rule is heavily dependent upon the analysis of Chambers et al.

  • There was unanimity among the panelists that Chambers et al was not universally accepted and that the issue was “not settled.” The issues raised by Chambers et al could be definitively answered relatively soon

  • There was unanimity among the panel that the rule does not currently represent the “best available science.”

  • READ MORE: http://www.minnpost.com/earth-journal/2014/02/feds-postponement-wolf-delisting-follows-embarrassing-scientific-review


Photo: wolf-pups_mythwallpaper-com

Posted in: Wolf Wars, Endangered Species Act

Tags gray wolf, shaky science, USFWS, national wolf delisting proposal, please comment, March 27, 2014 deadline, wolf persecution

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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Please continue to fight and save our wolves! They deserve the protection! 🙂


  2. How much proof does USFWS need to prove that wolves should not be delisted? What we have is political management of a species, particularly in MT-WY-ID-WI-MI. Wyoming has them classified as varmints in most of the state. Montana’s new rules allow ranchers to shoot any wolf they see as “threatening”, which means any wolf they see, and proposes to have year around trapping. Idaho is having wolf and coyote contests for cash and hired a hunter to kill a couple of packs deep in a wilderness area arguing that it is in defense of elk herds. The Governor of ID wants to set aside 2 million dollars to drive down the wolf population to marginal, delisting levels. Wisconsin is using dogs. MT-WY-ID-WI are obviously marginalizing this apex predator which is not good ecology for trophic cascade of effects of wolves; while hunters (sports killing) and ranchers and these state wildlife agencies have unhealthy effects on ecology. We are rapidly getting back to the 1800’s in wolf massacring states. Wolf management–they do not generally need management, should be out of the states’ hands in definitely. They are dominated by folklore, myths and lies of sportsmen, ranchers and state wildlife agencies only listening to them, which is their tradition. The states mentioned are way too hostile, and controlled by historic hostile elements. They are promoting two myths despite contrary evidence: Wolves do not kill too many elk or other game herds and their impact on cattle is less than 0.002%. These states are run by rancher and hunter folklore, myths and lies and their ilk in the state wildlife agencies and legislatures which existed when the wolves were reintroduced, with so far the only exception being OR and somewhat WA. OR is the model wolf management state, allowing the killing of only chronic offenders, not general wolf killing, and requiring that nonlethal management be in place and tried. The throwback (1800’s) wolf massacre states are mismanaging wolves. If the states, particularly the ones mentioned, were forced to live with wolves for number years and focus on nonlethal management, per the Oregon model, they might get use to the idea and wolves would have a chance, but not at the present time, and not in the near future. In ID and MT where they were politically delisted by a rider to a defense appropriation bill, they should be relisted. The majority of Americans want wolves in the wild. USFWS seems to be listening to a minority of the rancher-sportsmen-conservative state legislature groups. If I wanted to find someone who knows nothing about wolves except folklore, I would ask a sportsmen or rancher generally.






    MT Stock Loss Board

    MT FWP

    Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

    The Wolf Almanac by Robert Busch

    The Hidden Life of Wolves by Jamie and Jim Dutcher

    Exposing the Big Game by Jim Robertson


    • Very well said Roger. You should use that as your comment on regulations.gov.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


    • This was so well written I’m posting it on my facebook page. Thank goodness there are still some people out there with common sense and were not paid off.


  3. How easy to get lost in the weeds, not seeing the forest for the trees. One can get so mired in specifics of wolf DNA, particular species and how many wolves remain after massacre that will allow continuation of a few that wealthy ranchers may tolerate. How easy to forget that each wolf is precious, regardless of his or her genetic make up. Every wolf is an individual with a unique personality, as anyone who has known and loved a canine companion can verify. Killing even one wolf is a crime. To focus on the number of wolves remaining is a dangerous distraction.


  4. The more inept they look the better it is for the wolves (I hope!!)


  5. Analogy: Ranchers vs Wolves = City people vs burglers. City people know there are burglers and take precautions by locking their doors/have alarm systems. If broken into, they too want the criminal punished. However, they don’t leave doors open to bait burglers or pass laws to arrest all potential criminals to decrease crime. Wolves belong on the landscape, they are not criminals.


  6. Reblogged this on Exposing the Big Game.


  7. So the Mexican Grey Wolf is back on the endangered list?


    • Wolf Steps,

      The Mexican grays are still protected by the ESA, a lot good it’s done them. Only now, after 15 years, have their numbers started to slowly increase.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


  8. Reblogged this on "OUR WORLD".


  9. Reblogged this on Mungai and the Goa Constrictor.


  10. Reblogged this on CreekWaterWoman.


  11. No wolves of any kind should be killed. Believe in SCIENCE. Stop the killing!


  12. The independent scientists of the panel have unanimously agreed that the USFWS’s national wolf delisting proposal is not based on the best available science! It’s time for the USFWS to finally abandon this unscientific plan and to instead develop a nationwide wolf recovery plan!


  13. Reblogged this on digger666.


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