Soon after the announcement about plans to take the bald eagle off the endangered species list, the Bush administration says that gray wolves have rebounded so well in the Great Lakes region that they, too, no longer need Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection in the eastern half of the U.S.
Environmentalists are outraged that the success of one regional population of wolves in the upper Midwest means lack of protection for the species across several states in which reintroduction efforts have not yet taken hold. “This proposal puts the brakes on wolf recovery just as the species was starting to rebound,” says the Wolf Conservation Center’s Barry Braden.
Meanwhile, in defending their delisting proposal, Bush administration officials report that the gray wolf’s population has exceeded recovery goals set when it was placed on the endangered list back in 1972. The last time the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveyed Midwestern gray wolf populations in 1998, more than 2,400 of the wild animals roamed Minnesota’s backwoods, as well as 373 in Wisconsin and another 360 in Michigan.
Gray wolves were once abundant in the northeastern United States as well as the upper Midwest—until their extirpation by white colonists and frontiersmen. But the Bush administration, in an effort to justify the delisting proposal, reports that the species’ ESA recovery plan does not require the wolves to rebound across their entire historical range, adding that there are enough gray wolves now in the upper Midwest to ensure the survival of the species in the wild.