Washington – Two months after the states of Minnesota and
Wisconsin petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist
federally protected timber wolves in those states, members of
Congress from Minnesota have offered their own encouragement to
delist the species.
Last week, a letter from Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Jim
Oberstar was whisked off to Rowan Gould, acting director of the
USFWS, asking the agency for a federal review to determine if
wolves should remain on the endangered species list.
“The Endangered Species Act has helped bring numerous species
back from the brink of extinction. Like the bald eagle, the gray
wolf has been able to re-establish itself and increase its range,”
Klobuchar said in a press release. “Now that the wolf range in
Minnesota is coming close to farms, homes, and businesses,
delisting would give the Minnesota (DNR) the ability to implement
its own management plan.”
The press release, written with input from Oberstar’s office,
says wolf packs are now ranging as far south as the Mora area in
Wolves were delisted in 2007, the letter to Gould states, but
returned to the endangered species list based on a federal judge’s
decision the following year. Wolves again were delisted last year,
but only for two months, when animal rights groups, including the
Humane Society of the United States, successfully sued to have the
species relisted, once again.
Background provided by the members of Congress to Gould: In the
1950s, the wolf population was estimated at fewer than 750 animals.
The Endangered Species Act calls for a minimum population of 1,600
animals to “ensure the long-term survival of the wolf in
Minnesota.” Currently, the population is estimated at about 3,000
wolves in the state, the greatest holding of the species in the
Lower 48 states.
“This increase in the wolf population provides strong evidence
that the Endangered Species Act has been successful,” the letter to
Gould said. Further, “The Minnesota DNR currently has a management
plan ready to implement if the USFWS delists the gray wolf from the
The state plan wouldn’t allow hunting of wolves for at least
five years following delisting.
“We urge you to consider the science and make your determination
in a timely manner,” the letter says.
Phil Delphey, of the USFWS office in Minneapolis, said the
Service has been studying wolf genetics across the United States
“so we can best understand genetics nationwide.”
Delphey said greater knowledge of wolf genetics could eventually
aid the Service as it moves toward delisting in Minnesota and other
Midwestern states, like Wisconsin and Michigan.
The genetics study was completed, the collected information was
peer-reviewed, and now Service officials are applying peer comments
to the research.
“We want to make sure that any action we take regarding
delisting will have a firm scientific basis,” Delphey said.
In March, the Minnesota DNR petitioned the USFWS to delist
wolves in the state. Wisconsin later joined the action.
That set the clock ticking on a three-month period for the USFWS
to respond. Delphey said when that 90-day period expires, the
federal agency will issue a “formal finding” on the petition – that
what’s requested is warranted and possible. It won’t mean immediate
That more likely would come later in the year, once the genetics
study is wrapped up, and data from the study available.
“We filed the petition because it is time to have the federal
classification match the Minnesota reality,” DNR Commissioner Mark
Holsten said in a press release in March.
Klobuchar and Oberstar set no timeline in their request of
review of the status of wolves in the state.