July 21, 2004 - Proposal to Delist the Gray Wolf Eastern Distinct Population Segment
This "Proposal to Delist" was never finalized
In 2004, the Service proposed to remove Endangered Species Act protection (i.e., "delist") for all gray wolves in the Eastern Distinct Population Segment that had been established by a 2003 Rule. Below is a Question and Answer Fact Sheet that was prepared for that delisting proposal.
After the 2004 proposal to delist the Gray Wolf Eastern Distinct Population Segment was published, a ruling by the Oregon court and the Vermont court vacated the 2003 Rule and the Department of Justice declined to appeal. Therefore, the Service could not finalize the delisting proposal.
Questions and Answers 2004 Proposal to Remove the Gray Wolf Eastern Distinct Population Segment from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Species
is the Service proposing to do?
is a Distinct Population Segment?
When the Service reclassified gray wolf populations in the lower 48 States in 2003, it identified three Distinct Population Segments -- the Eastern DPS, Western DPS, and Southwestern DPS -- of the gray wolf in the United States and Mexico.
Each of the DPSs encompasses a core area where wolf recovery has occurred or is underway. In the Eastern DPS this includes Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Eastern DPS also includes other states that are outside of the core recovery area but within the historical range of the gray wolf. The Eastern DPS thus includes a contiguous area from the Dakotas, Kansas and Nebraska on the west, east to the Atlantic Coast, and south to Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
would happen to gray wolves in the Eastern DPS if they are delisted?
is the status of wolves in the Eastern DPS while the Service considers
the proposal? Are they still protected?
is the Service proposing to delist gray wolves in the Eastern DPS?
recovery plan for the gray wolf in the eastern United States sets forth
population criteria that, when achieved, will ensure the survival of the
gray wolf into the future in the eastern United States. Those population
Gray wolf numbers and distribution in the Eastern DPS have exceeded the population criteria identified in the recovery plan. Today's estimated population in Minnesota is more than 2,450. Wolves have become established in Wisconsin and in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and wolf numbers in those states are, respectively, 373 and 360.
In addition to exceeding population criteria set out in the recovery plan, potential threats after delisting have been addressed by Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin State management plans. To prepare for assuming management of the species after Federal delisting, each of those states developed a wolf management plan with the goal of ensuring future survival of the State's wolf population. Those plans were signed by the head of the State's Department of Natural Resources after input from wolf experts and extensive public involvement.
do the gray wolf management plans prepared by Michigan, Minnesota and
Wisconsin ensure the long-term survival of gray wolves in those states?
The Michigan plan calls for a minimum sustainable population of 200 wolves in the Upper Peninsula. Habitat, prey, and land-use analysis showed that the Upper Peninsula can support at least 800 wolves. No upper population limit is specified, but an upper limit referred to as the cultural carrying capacity will be determined by public reaction. The plan acknowledges that in the future, "some degree of wolf population stabilization and control" may be needed and that "some wolves will likely need to be killed under controlled conditions."
Under the Minnesota plan, wolves will be allowed to continue to naturally expand their range within the State. The minimum statewide winter population goal is 1,600 wolves; there is no maximum goal. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will take the appropriate actions to remedy the situation if the population falls below the minimum goal. The plan divides the State into wolf management zones A and B, which correspond to zones 1-4 and zone 5, respectively, in the Federal wolf recovery plan. In Zone A, where over 80 percent of the wolves reside, State protections would be nearly as strict as current protections under the ESA, and we expect little or no resulting post-delisting population decline there. The protection provided by the plan to the Zone A wolves will ensure a State wolf population well above 1,600 in that zone. In Zone B, wolves could be killed to protect domestic animals, even if attacks or threatening behavior have not occurred. While a significant decrease in the Zone B wolf population may result, such a result would be consistent with the Federal recovery plan, which discourages the establishment of a wolf population in that portion of the state.
In Wisconsin, the minimum population management goal is 350 outside of Indian Reservations. Because the wolf population now exceeds this level, the State has taken initial steps to delist the wolf and classify it as a Protected Wild Animal. If numbers decline and stay below 250 for three years, the State will relist as threatened. If they decline to less than 80 for one year, the State will relist or reclassify the wolf as endangered.
will the Service ensure the State management plans are sufficient to protect
the future survival of gray wolves in the Eastern DPS?
will wolves be monitored after they are delisted?
Wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have been surveyed and studied for several decades, primarily by the three State natural resource departments, but with assistance from many partners, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey - Biological Resources Division, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services, Tribal natural resource agencies, and the Service. All three states intend to continue their previous wolf population monitoring practices with only minor changes. Minnesota, for example, is currently completing a statewide survey of its wolf population and expects to have a population estimate later in 2004. It plans to complete this survey again five years after Federal delisting.
In addition to monitoring population numbers and trends, the monitoring plan will include evaluating threats, in particular disease and human-caused mortality, and any legal or management measures imposed by States or Tribes.
If at any time during the monitoring period the Service detects a significant decline in the populations or a new or expanded threat, it will evaluate and change the monitoring methods, if appropriate, and consider relisting the Eastern DPS. At the end of the monitoring period, the Service will decide if relisting, continued monitoring, or ending Service monitoring is appropriate. If warranted (for example, data show a significant decline or increased threats), the Service will consider continuing monitoring beyond the specified time.
this proposal affect wolves outside the Eastern DPS?
gray wolves in the Eastern DPS are delisted, can they be hunted and trapped?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not prescribe the specifics of how States and Tribes manage wolves, but that they implement plans that effectively conserve the gray wolves in their states so Federal relisting as threatened or endangered will not be necessary.
can the Service delist the gray wolf in the Northeast if there are no
delisting in the Northeast mean that there would be no possibility for
future reintroduction or recovery efforts there?
While the northeastern United States may contain a large area of historical range not currently occupied by breeding wolves, recovery of the Eastern DPS is not contingent on wolves being found in this area. Assuming that the population in its current range is recovered, it is appropriate to delist the Eastern DPS even if a substantial amount of the historical range remains unoccupied. Although the Service does not believe that additional wolf restoration is necessary within the northeastern United States before delisting the Eastern DPS, delisting will not preclude States and Tribes from undertaking additional wolf restoration programs is they are interested.
there questions among wolf experts about the species of wolf that once
inhabited the Northeast? Won't that affect the Service's proposal to delist
gray wolves there?
The Service does not believe that additional gray wolf restoration is necessary within the northeastern U.S. before delisting the Eastern DPS.
will the Service make a final decision on this proposal?
can the public provide input on the proposal?
or by sending a letter to:
or by sending a fax to (801)517-1015
or by following the instruction on the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov.
In addition, a series of public hearings will be held where oral and written comments will be accepted. Check the Service's Midwest website at http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf for dates and locations of the public hearings. In the event that our internet connection is not functional, please submit your comments by mail or fax.
can I get more information?
or groups wishing to be placed on the Service's mailing list to obtain
updates on the wolf's status can write to:
or use the GRAYWOLFMAIL@FWS.GOV address or call the Service's Gray Wolf Information Line at 612-713-7337.
In the event that the Service's internet connection is not functional, please contact the Service by mail or telephone.
Prepared July 2004
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