Plan Threatens Wolf Recovery

The same environmentalists and biologists who have cheered the comeback of the wolf to Yellowstone National Park are cringing at a Bush administration plan proposing to give state officials in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming the authority to move or shoot wolves that have wandered beyond park boundaries into zones where prey populations of grazing animals are diminishing. Whether or not wolves are playing any role in herds” low numbers, state officials—with the blessing of the Bush administration—are hungry to take out Canis lupus.

“Local politicians and livestock interests opposed the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, and now they have found a friend in the Bush administration,” says endangered species attorney Andrew Wetzler. “If adopted, this plan will set back one of the most remarkable success stories of the Endangered Species Act and cut short wolf recovery in the United States.”

Nearly exterminated by the middle of the 20th century in the U.S., the gray wolf is now thriving in and around Yellowstone, thanks to a successful reintroduction program that unleashed 35 Canadian wolves into the park in 1995. Today, some 270 wolves spread across 28 packs inhabit Yellowstone and environs, culling weak prey and generally improving the health of the park’s ecosystem.

State officials from Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are expressly interested in exterminating wolves from the region and have been working with the Bush administration for over a year in order to gain decision-making authority on the issue. Sympathetic legislators could try to push legislation through this summer, which would weaken protections for the as-of-yet still-endangered gray wolf.