Here we go — again.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced the reopening of the comment period on the May 5 proposed rule to delist the gray wolf population in the Western Great Lakes.
The action will allow for additional public review and the inclusion of any new information, the USFWS said. Comments must be received on or before Sept. 26.
This follows a comment period that ended July 5. At the close of that period, the USFWS said it would consider all new information and other data and make a final decision on the proposal. Now, at the earliest, a decision won’t come until fall.
But don’t hold your breath.
In the rule issued earlier this year, the USFWS proposed to remove gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes area — which includes Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin and portions of adjoining states — from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife because wolves have recovered in the area and no longer require the protection of the ESA.
The 1992 Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Plan and Endangered Species Act recovery criteria called for a sustained population of 1,251 to 1,400 wolves in Minnesota and an additional viable population in Wisconsin and Michigan of at least 100 wolves. Today, there are about 3,000 to 3,500 wolves in Minnesota and about 1,000 in Wisconsin and Michigan. According to the Endangered Species Act, once a species has recovered, it must be delisted.
Still, nothing. And as wolves are currently listed as “threatened” in Minnesota, property owners themselves can’t deal with problem wolves. But if “delisted,” ranchers and property owners could protect their animals/property from wolves.
In 2009, the federal government agreed to relist gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes — two months after the USFWS delisted the wolves. A report said the agency didn’t allow for the legally required public comment period before taking action. Under that settlement, the USFWS said it would return the wolves to the list before deciding whether to seek to again delist them.
As I reported at the time, that was — and still is — a victory for the activist groups that sued the USFWS after the wolves were delisted. According to a report that came out at about that same time, the federal government had
tried six times in the previous five years to drop wolves from the list, but had been denied by lawsuits from activist groups.
So again, who knows if a decision of any kind will come anytime soon.
But to comment, go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. (FWS-R3-ES-2011-0029). Or comment via mail at Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. (FWS-R3-ES-2011-0029), Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM, Arlington, VA 22203. The USFWS is not able to accept emails or faxes.
BRIAN S. PETERSON, outdoors editor, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/brian_speterson. For his blogs, go to www.brainerddispatch.com.