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Local environmentalists battle feds

Pending decision to remove gray wolf violates ESA, argues Adirondack Council

— The region’s leading environmental advocacy group, the Adirondack Council, has placed themselves front and center in the fight against the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) pending decision to remove the gray wolf from its endangered species list and their decision to list the eastern wolf as a new separate species with a distinct evolutionary heritage, an action that means that the eastern wolf is no longer technically endangered and doesn’t warrant federal protection.

Listed species are eligible to receive special federal protection from hunting, trapping and habitat loss. Removing the eastern timberwolf means that wolves that drift into the area wouldn’t be subject to federal protections.

A viable wolf population hasn’t yet been reestablished in the northeast, argues the Adirondack Council, and delisting them not only is poor public policy based on shoddy science, but also a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the federal law designed to protect imperiled species from extinction.

The FWS said current scientific research has shown that there are no resident populations of eastern wolf or any wolf species in the northeastern United States.

“On the rare occasion that a true wolf is seen in the northeastern states,” said FWS spokeswoman Meagan Racey, “it is almost certainly a dispersing individual from a neighboring Great Lakes or Canadian population.”

This geographical dispersal is one of the arguments that underpins the agency’s pending decision to delist. Under the ESA, federal authorities are required to identify species as endangered or threatened and take action.

“We’re required to recover them,” said FWS Northeast Region Chief of Endangered Species Martin Miller. “But that doesn’t mean that species and subspecies have to be expanded to include all of their historical range. We can’t keep something on the list if it’s no longer endangered or threatened.”

The wolf populations closest to the Adirondack Park are in Quebec’s Papineau-Labelle Reserve 60 miles from New York and Quebec’s Laurentide Reserve, which is less than 75 miles from Maine.

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