By WAN –
November 1, 2018
Photo from the Center for Biological Diversity
The controversial plan by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to drastically reduce protection for the nation’s only wild population of endangered red wolves, has met nearly unanimous opposition from more than 100,000 members of the public.
Out of 108,124 comments submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service on the proposal, 99.9% spoke out in favor of the red wolves and their need for strong federal protections.
In June, the service solicited public comments on its management plan for the red wolf, which survives only in Eastern North Carolina with only as few as 30 individuals remaining.
The service suggested reducing the recovery area where the wolves can safely roam by more than 90%. The revised recovery area would only be expected to provide sufficient space for 10-15 red wolves.
The proposal would eliminate protections for any red wolves that wander off Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and Dare County Bombing Range.
The plan would shockingly allow anyone to kill red wolves on private lands for any reason.
“People overwhelmingly oppose the Trump administration’s dangerous plan to slash the red wolf recovery area,” Perrin de Jong, a Center for Biological Diversity staff attorney based in North Carolina, said in a statement. “This reckless proposal would put these unique animals in immediate jeopardy of being lost from the wild forever. Citizens from the recovery area, across the state, and around the country, clearly want the feds to do more, not less, to protect the world’s most endangered wolf.”
“Every voice raised in support of wildlife can make a difference, and Americans overwhelmingly support the Red Wolf Recovery Program,” said Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center. “We’re counting on the service to take notice and follow the best available science to ensure that the world’s most endangered wolves remain a living, breathing part of the landscape in Eastern North Carolina.”
People living in the areas most directly affected by red wolves also expressed strong support for their conservation. Out of 2,923 comments submitted by the people of North Carolina, 2,898 comments, or 99.1%, spoke out in favor of red wolves. From the current five-county recovery area in Eastern North Carolina where the wolves live, 75 out of 95 comments submitted were also pro-wolf.
North Carolina’s governor also spoke out against the service’s proposal and expressed support for red wolf recovery.
“There is a viable path forward for North Carolina’s red wolves living in the wild, and I have directed relevant departments in my administration to work with USFWS to continue the recovery program and build upon its success to date,” Governor Roy Cooper said in a comment submitted to the Service on July 30th.
Only 19 comments specifically supported the agency’s plan to eliminate red wolf protections and shrink the recovery area. Of 30 additional comments opposing red wolf recovery, 13 came from a single real estate developer.
Volunteers from the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Wildlands Network, and the Wolf Conservation Center reviewed each of the thousands of comments submitted to produce this analysis.
In the past, the service released inaccurate tallies of wolf public comments it had received. In 2017, during the initial scoping period for the current plan, the agency reported only 12,000 out of 55,000 red wolf comments, ignoring extensive compilations of comments submitted by conservation organizations.
“Wildlife, including red wolves, are managed by the USFWS in trust for the American people,” noted D.J. Schubert, Wildlife Biologist at the Animal Welfare Institute. “The people have now spoken loud and clear of their support for the protection and recovery of the red wolf in the wild, it is time that the government starts to listen and comply with the public’s clear message. Less than 20 years ago, there were more than 130 red wolves in the wild. These numbers can be achieved again if the USFWS complies with federal law.”
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