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Groups to sue Fish & Wildlife on wolf protection

Endangered Species Act and the Alexander Archipelago wolf

Posted: July 12, 2012 - 12:11am  |  Updated: July 12, 2012 - 1:55pm

The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace continue their push to have Southeast Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago wolf listed on the Endangered Species Act.

The non-profit environmental organizations submitted a petition to list the wolf to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in August 2011 (goo.gl/Py9gf) and (goo.gl/J4CZB). The Service is expected to determine whether or not further investigation is required within 90 days of the filing. It has yet to release a decision.

The environmental non-profits have announced a 60-day notice of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for delay in its decision whether the non-profits’ petition warrants further investigation. The 60-day notice of intent to sue is a legally required precursor before a lawsuit can be filed.

The Alexander Archipelago wolf (Canis lupus ligoni) is a subspecies of the gray or timber wolf, according to Forest Service report on the wolf. It lives throughout most of Southeast Alaska, Yakutat Bay to Dixon Entrance, excluding Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof Islands, according to the report.

Alexander Archipelago wolves den in the roots of large trees in old-growth forests. They hunt mostly Sitka black-tailed deer. These deer also rely on old-growth forest for habitat.

High levels of wolf harvest by humans and loss of habitat for the wolf’s prey “primarily to extensive timber harvesting” hinder conservation of the wolf, according to the Forest Service report.

“The existence of this unique wolf is imperiled by ongoing old-growth logging that adds to the high loss of quality wildlife habitat,” Larry Edwards, Greenpeace forest campaigner, said in a press release.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not comment on pending litigation, Larry Bell, Region 7 assistant regional director for external affairs for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife said. Due to the pending lawsuit Bell said he was not able to answer whether Fish and Wildlife denies the Center for Biological Diversity’s implication that the Service is dragging its heels.

Bell said the Service did receive a petition from the non-profits requesting to list the wolf as an endangered species, triggering a 90-day review.

“What the 90-day finding does is makes a determination if it warrants further study,” Bell said. The Service can turn down the petition, or, if the petition does warrant further review, Bell said, the Service begins a 12-month finding and conduct a status review for the species.

”At the end of that 12-months we’d make a determination,” Bell said. “We are a long way from there yet, but that is the process.”

If the wolf is listed, federal projects or projects it funds or authorizes must be ensured to “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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