The Outer Banks Voice – Federal government withdraws plan to reduce red wolf protections in North Carolina


Federal government withdraws plan to cut red wolf protections in North Carolina

By Coastal Review on November 15, 2021

A captive red wolf. (Photo: B. Bartel / US Fish and Wildlife)

MANTEO – A controversial proposal to limit long-standing protective habitat and management strategies for critically endangered red wolves in northeastern North Carolina has been removed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

the agency had proposed in 2018 replace existing regulations that provided protective measures for the world’s only known wild red wolves, referred to as the North Carolina “Non-Essential Experimental Population” or NC NEP, with a drastically reduced rule. Many environmental groups had challenged the proposal in federal court, saying it violated the requirements of a provision of the Endangered Species Act.

“Based on recent court rulings involving the NC NEP and after reviewing public comments submitted in response to the proposed 2018 rule, the Service has determined that withdrawing the proposed rule is the best course of action at this time,” said the agency said in a November statement. ten Press release.

By withdrawing the proposed rule, Fish and Wildlife allowed the slate to start over on previously successful management tactics used in existing regulations, “as clarified by relevant court orders,” the statement said. This means that under the 1995 Management Rule, the agency has the authority to release captive-bred wolves into the wild population and conduct adaptive management – a point of contention detailed in the 2018 proposal and the subsequent legal proceedings.

Fish and Wildlife will also resume work with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to implement coyote sterilization on federal and non-federal lands, subject to written agreements with landowners, according to the press release. In addition, the agency said that the authorized taking will primarily be limited to protecting oneself or others from potential harm.

Under the 2018 proposal, most of the private land in the 1.7 million acre reclamation area that encompasses Hyde, Tyrrell, Dare, Beaufort and Washington counties had been removed, leaving a small area in County Dare. Once this plan is completed, all five counties will remain in the recovery area.

“Environmentalists have been waiting 3 years to put the terrible red wolf proposal of 2018 behind us, and it is extremely gratifying to know that the USFWS is finally officially withdrawing from its plan to dramatically reduce recovery options for wolves.” Ron Sutherland, chief scientist for Wildlands Network, a nonprofit environmental group, said in an email. “Being able to finally put this hideous and cowardly proposition to bed is super rewarding and excellent news for the future of the Red Wolves. “

Sutherland said an analysis by Wildlands, a strong advocate for red wolf recovery, public comments on the 2018 proposal found more than 90% of the more than 100,000 comments the agency received supported doing more. , no less, to protect the wolves. .

Although red wolves once covered a wide range along the Gulf of the United States and the southeastern coastal plains, their populations have been decimated by overhunting and habitat loss. The red wolf was listed in 1973 under the Endangered Species Act as an endangered species and was declared extinct in the wild in 1980.

Four pairs of captive-bred wolves, descendants of a few wild wolves captured on the Gulf Coast, were released to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in 1987, and by 2005 the number had grown to 130 wolves.

Conflicts with private owners over wolf management had intensified over the past 10 to 15 years, with owners complaining of wolves killing pets and livestock, exacerbated by poor communication on the part of the wolf. wildlife managers.

The proposed rule change would have reduced the range size of wolves to land in the Alligator River National Wildlife Area and the Dare County bombing zone in Dare and Hyde counties. (Map: Fish and wildlife of the United States)

The 1.7 million acre salvage area will continue in Hyde, Tyrrell, Dare, Beaufort and Washington counties. But with as few as 10 known red wolves still roaming the recovery area, in addition to around 20 collared wolves, conservationists fear there is no time to waste.

The agency said it was taking steps to improve relations with landowners.

“The Service will continue to work with stakeholders to identify ways to encourage and facilitate a more effective coexistence between humans and wolves …”, according to the statement, “and to establish the necessary support for wolf conservation. Red”.

Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted in support of the Home Office’s decision, calling it “an important step to save the American red wolf, the world’s most endangered canine species.” Cooper has pledged to work with the Biden administration, Wildlife Resources, and the North Carolina Zoo to prevent extinction.

Perrin de Jong, a lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity, called the plan to reduce the red wolf recovery area “reckless and ill-conceived.”

“I am relieved that the Fish and Wildlife Service has finally listened to the public outcry against him,” said de Jong. “People want federal agencies to do more, not less, to protect the world’s most endangered wolf.”

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