If successful, a current attempt to list Southeast Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago wolf as an endangered species may have little or no affect on timber sales.
Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity have announced their intent to sue U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a decision whether a their petition to list the Southeast Alaska wolf merits further review. Delivered in August of 2011, the petition kicked off a Fish and Wildlife 90-day review.
The Alexander Archipelago wolf, a subspecies of the timber or grey wolf, is found exclusively in certain old-growth areas in Southeast Alaska. Sitka black-tailed deer are a main staple for the wolf, but it also relies on old-growth forests for habitat. Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity have said the wolf is threatened by ongoing old-growth logging in its range.
An endangered wolf in the Tongass would not disrupt current logging and timber sales, Forest Service Wildlife, Fish and Watershed Director Wayne Owen said.
“I have seen this happen in lots of places and lots of instances,” Owen said. “Some people are going to feel threatened, some people are going to rejoice.”
In reality, listing of the wolf will have little affect on current timber practices or sales, Owen said.
“Pretty small, almost non-existent,” Owen said. “Due to what the endangered species requires of us.”
Owen said of all national forests, only Tongass National Forest currently is without a listed endangered species.
“Every single forest has endangered species issues,” Owen said. There are timber-producing forests that produce two to three times the timber as the Tongass and have endangered species.
Owen admitted to some potential hurdles.
“We’ll do our planning a little differently and we may be required to design or time our sales differently,” Owen said. “We have no reason to expect that it would change the amount of timber that we would offer.”
The Forest Service, which currently takes advice from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would be legally bound to follow FWS’s review should the wolf be listed as endangered. Fish and Wildlife can require changes to make sure Forest Service actions are consistent with Engangered Species Act-required protection of the wolf.
“We could ignore their advice,” Owen said, “but that would be a foolish thing to do. We would be breaking the law.”
Owen said it is not so out of the ordinary for Fish and Wildlife to miss the 90-day deadline responding to the endangered species permit.
“It happens all the time,” Owen said. “The process was set up in 1973, it is a matter of workload… it’s a matter of bodies.”
“They’re not shirking,” Owen said, “they’re not dragging their feet. It just takes a while. This is completely usual.”
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.