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Documents show state officials rather than scientists led decision to remove endangered species protections for wolves

The Center for Biological Diversity has obtained documents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through a Freedom of Information Act filing that show the move to take away most federal protections for gray wolves was decided three years ago in a series of meetings with state wildlife agency.

The center says the documents show that without scientific support, the FWS pushed ahead with lifting protections for the wolves, a population that was nearly destroyed in the United States. The federal Endangered Species Act states that decisions to list or delist species must be based on the best available science. 

The documents, said the CBD, show that the federal agency’s focus was “what can the public tolerate” and “where should wolves exist” rather than where suitable habitat for wolves exists or what is scientifically necessary for recovery. 

“This process made a mockery of the spirit of the Endangered Species Act,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director for the center. “These documents show that years ago the Fish and Wildlife Service effectively handed over the reins on wolf recovery to state fish and game agencies, many of which are openly hostile to wolves,. In order to ensure this politically contrived outcome, the Fish and Wildlife Service has spent the past three years cherry-picking scientific research that justifies the predetermined outcome that wolves don’t need protection anymore.” 

Hartl said if the Fish and Wildlife Service had followed its approach 20 years ago, there would likely be no wolves in Yellowstone National Park today – and no wolves in northern Rocky Mountains. 

Wisconsin is one state where protections for wolves have been reduced and the animals, during certain times, are being hunted.

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