During the Plenary Session of the 84th Annual North American Wildlife and Resources Conference in Denver, Colorado, Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will soon send to the Federal Register a proposed rule to delist gray wolves throughout much of the coterminous 48 states.
The delisting is likely to include the wolves of the Western Great Lakes – a recovered population that, due to repeated litigation challenges to delisting efforts, has remained on the endangered and threatened species lists. The rule will also likely propose to delist wolves in areas such as the Pacific Northwest and Colorado but will likely not apply to the Mexican wolf subspecies, currently living in Arizona and New Mexico.
Once published, the Federal Register notice will open the proposed wolf delisting rule for public comment. SCI’s Legal Advocacy staff, who have gone to court on numerous occasions to help the FWS and affected states defend the return of wolf management to state agencies, will consult with the biologists of SCI Foundation’s Conservation Department and prepare comments on behalf of SCI.
Secretary Bernhardt also spoke about the President’s and the Department of the Interior’s work with the states and, in particular, the Department’s engagement with the states about soon to be released sage grouse planning.
The Secretary also announced that he would be signing two new Secretarial Orders. The first would require the Bureau of Land Management, when considering the disposal or exchange of lands, to analyze the impact that the land transfer would have on hunting and other recreation. The second order would build upon work already being done by the Department on wildlife migration corridors. The new order would expand the existing work to mule deer and bighorn sheep and would apply to summer range.
Secretary Bernhardt closed his remarks with a brief discussion about Chronic Wasting Disease. He stated that the Department wishes to engage in a helpful way to address CWD that is respectful to the management role of the states.