An urgent new petition has been launched to help protect gray wolves from extinction in the United States. The important petition calls for the government to deny federal wildlife management funding to states that excessively target wolves and other predators.
Under federal aid programs for wildlife, substantial funds are funneled into state game agencies. An estimated $1 billion in federal aid has already been deposited into state game agency bank accounts this year alone.
The rule-making petition would have Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, adopt regulations making states ineligible to receive grants under the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration Acts if they allow hunting and trapping at levels that compromise healthy populations of wildlife, including predators. That condition is currently required under law but without an enforcement mechanism, a loophole that this petition would fill.
WAN had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Ruch, Pacific Director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), one of the organization’s involved in recommending the suggested new plan.
“We have been working on this issue for more than a decade,” Ruch told WAN, further explaining that PEER was first alerted to the situation by Denali National Park biologists who were concerned about the declining wolf population after Alaska removed buffer zones in the national park. “This is an escalation of our past efforts.”
Tragically, as per Ruch, who co-founded PEER and served as its Executive Director from 1997-2019, the chances of visitors seeing wolves at Denali National Park and Preserve are currently less than 5% after dropping from as high as 45% in 2010.
“This is solely due to the decimation of wolf packs in boundary areas,” continued Ruch, who warned that Yellowstone wolves who wander into Montana and Wyoming are now similarly at risk. “Wolves don’t read. They don’t know when they are leaving the park boundaries.”
In this latest move to generate change, PEER was joined by the Global Indigenous Council (GIC), and the Center for Biological Diversity, as well as a coalition of environmental, conservation, Native American, and animal welfare organizations that are supporting the petition.
Due to Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Wisconsin declaring open season on wolves, the petition also targets appalling practices such as: baiting and snaring of bears, wolf collaring, use of dogs to hunt predators, the shooting of bears and wolves along with their young in dens, as well as hunting from helicopters and planes or at night with artificial lights.
The petition would add crucial regulatory language that would:
Reinforce current statutory requirements that states receiving federal funds are not compromising “healthy populations of wildlife,” impinging upon the “unmet needs for a diverse array of wildlife and associated habitats,” and are “giving appropriate consideration to all wildlife.”
Establish a mandatory public comment period on state eligibility before distributing funds in order to allow stakeholders, especially those who have been traditionally marginalized, including: Tribes, subsistence users, tourism and watchable wildlife interests, independent scientists, and the conservation community, to be heard as part of the Pittman-Robertson funding process.
Enable the Secretary to consider impacts of new state legislation and management practices, as well as new population numbers, developing science, and public input in making an eligibility determination and distributing funds to the states.