The Center of Biological Diversity and Greenpeace filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday to protect the Alexander Archipelago wolf under the Endangered Species Act.
Greenpeace First Campaigner Larry Edwards said listing this wolf as endangered is important because it’s unique to Southeast Alaska with no real exchange to speak of outside the region. He said studies have shown declines in the population, especially on Prince of Wales Island.
The agency considered listing the wolf in the mid-1990s but ultimately decided not to. One of the reasons for that decision was that the Tongass Forest Plan in 1997 outlined specific standards for protecting this wolf.
“It did leave the door open to revisiting this sometime in the future,” said Edwards. He said that time is now because CBD and Greenpeace believe the Forest Service has not adequately implemented those standards.
“In the intervening years we found the regulatory mechanisms in place just haven’t worked,” he said. “And there’s a lot of new science out about this endemic species.”
“At minimum, it’s time to do a new status review,” he said.
U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Erin Uloth said this is not case. She said the Forest Plan has a conservation strategy that outlines all ranges of wildlife with specific details for this wolf. She said the strategy was developed by scientists, peer-reviewed and held to rigorous sets of standards to ensure such protections.
“Under the current plan, they’re under the sensitive species list so that means on any kind of project we specifically analyze impacts to wolves and evaluate how well our protections will serve,” said Uloth. “So any time we do a project, we look at wolves specifically,” she said.
Uloth said the process for wolf protection is very intensive, which was a reason the wolves were not listed as endangered earlier. She said the Forest Service’s standards remain so now.
“We are confident our protections are doing the jobs they’re designed to do,” she said.
“We still don’t have any threatened or endangered land-based species in our forest and I think that’s a record that speaks for itself,” Uloth said.
Edwards said a big concern is over the impacts of projects like logging and road construction.
He said this can be critical to wolves and particularly to the deer that serve as their primary prey.
“We’re very worried about the population of them, especially on Prince of Wales,” he said.
He said road construction could make it to where wolf mortality gets unsustainable.
Uloth could not speculate on what impacts the listing would have on road or timber projects if it came to pass.
This petition comes just a week after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded approval for four Tongass logging projects due to insufficient scientific explanations for wolf and deer impacts. Greenpeace and Cascadia Wildlands were the plaintiffs.
Edwards said the timing of this petition so soon after the decision is purely coincidental. He said this petition was being drafted many months before the court decision and they intended to submit around this time anyway.
• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.