Cattlemen sue for review of wolf status - Fish and Wildlife hasn't conducted five-year review


Posted 2/16/2011

Capital Press

The Washington Cattlemen's Association has filed suit to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if the gray wolf still requires protection as an endangered species.

On Feb. 16, the group filed a legal complaint in U.S. District Court in eastern Washington against the agency for allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act.

The Fish and Wildlife Service hasn't conducted a mandatory five-year status review of the gray wolf since the species was listed as endangered in 1978, the complaint said.

The association has asked a federal judge to declare the Fish and Wildlife Service has acted unlawfully and to order the agency to complete the review.

"The goal is to get the Fish and Wildlife Service to follow the law," said Jack Field, the group's executive vice president. "It's a shame it requires litigation to compel the federal government to complete its statutory obligation."

The Washington Cattlemen's Association would prefer to see the gray wolf's status downgraded to threatened or to have it removed from the list of endangered species altogether, he said.

Even so, Field said it would be inappropriate to assume a status review would lead the agency to that conclusion.

"We want science to lead the discussion," he said.

A spokesperson for the Fish and Wildlife Service could not be reached for comment as of press time.

The Center for Biological Diversity, which has pressed for strong wolf protections, would not object to more study of the species, said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the group.

"We're in favor of renewed scientific and recovery planning attention directed to the gray wolf," he said.

However, Robinson said the evidence doesn't point to the need for decreased regulatory protections.

In Oregon and Washington, for example, the species is very vulnerable and dependent on larger populations to the east, he said.

"An honest look at the science shows that wolves are highly imperiled in large parts of their range," Robinson said.