By Joshua Huff
Evidence to Support Species Listing
There are several benefits to keep wolves listed under the Endangered Species Act. If wolves are delisted, the protections that they have from the federal government cease and wolf policies would fall to state hands. In the past, states have “enacted policies explicitly designed to reduce wolf populations or prevent wolf range expansion” (Bruskotter). Since wolves have only recovered in a portion of their historic range, these states are ignoring the science and moving forward an agenda that is detrimental to wolf populations.
Areas where the wolf populations have recovered have benefited from the presence of wolves. For example, it was found that wolves in Yellowstone National Park are considered a keystone species. Without the presence of wolves, the large ungulate populations were not maintained, and these populations caused habitat destruction due to their grazing. By reintroducing the wolves into Yellowstone National Park, the wolves created pressures on the elk populations that have allowed aspen trees to grow, further restoring the habitat and increasing biodiversity (Ripple). The same habitat benefits could be applied to wolves in Oregon. However, wolves cannot benefit ecosystems if they are forced out of their habitats.
The Endangered Species Act mitigates human causes of wolf mortality. For example, this mitigates the chance that a rancher will kill a wolf that disturbs their livestock or legal wolf hunting (Williams). If wolves do not have protection under the ESA, they could be pushed out of territory, moreover, not benefiting the ecosystem as a keystone predator. Members of a congressional committee disagreed with wolves being delisted from the Oregon ESA in 2015. They argued that the population of wolves has increased but they still occupy only 5% of the historic range (House of Representatives). Furthermore, wolves are not yet recovered to the point where their protections under the Endangered Species Act should be removed.
Evidence to Oppose Species Listing
There are benefits to having wolves delisted from the Endangered Species Act as well. If wolves are not listed under the Endangered Species Act, it would allow for states to individually manage their populations of wolves and create specific management protocols for each of those populations (House of Representatives). For example, a lack of tolerance to wolves may prevent wolf re-establishment in some areas (Bruskotter). The ESA can only mitigate human actions against wolves and cannot change the way people view wolves and the hostility that may exist towards them. These feelings exist because the productivity of cattle ranchers can be impaired by wolves that injure livestock and create stress within herds (Williams). If local hostility prevents wolves from inhabiting an area, then it would be more beneficial to handle those issues on a state or local level. Furthermore, state laws could be adjusted to accommodate for the views of locals and still create protections for wolves.
Wolves in the eastern part of Oregon were removed from the state’s ESA in 2015. The population in Oregon in 2015 was a minimum of 110 wolves and grew by 48 wolves from 2015 to April of 2020 (Landers; Wolf Conservation Center). The population continued to grow despite being removed from Oregon’s ESA thanks to the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. Therefore, the species has shown that they can continue to thrive without the help of the endangered species act.
Beschta, Robert L., and William J. Ripple. “Riparian Vegetation Recovery in Yellowstone: The First Two Decades after Wolf Reintroduction.” Science Direct, vol. 198, June 2016, pp. 93–103., doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.03.031.
Bruskotter, Jeremy T., et al. “Removing Protections for Wolves and the Future of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (1973).” Society for Conservation Biology, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 26 Dec. 2013, https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/conl.12081.
House of Representatives. “Manage Our Wolves Act (Report 115-1012) ” 115th Congress. 2018. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CRPT-115hrpt1012/pdf/CRPT-115hrpt1012.pdf
Landers, Rich. “Oregon Wolves Continue to Expand, 2015 Report Shows.” The Spokesman-Review, The Spokesman-Review, 1 Mar. 2016, www.spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors/2016/mar/01/oregon-wolves-continue-expand-2015-report-shows/.
Ripple, William J, and Robert L Beschta. “Restoring Yellowstone’s Aspen with Wolves.” Science Direct , vol. 138, no. 3-4, Sept. 2007, pp. 514–519., doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2007.05.006.
Williams, John, et al. “Wolves-A Primer for Ranchers.” OSU Extension Catalog, Mar. 2017, https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/em9142/html.
Wolf Conservation Center. “How Many Wild Wolves Are in the United States?” Wolf Conservation Center, Wolf Conservation Center, 2020, nywolf.org/learn/u-s-wolf-populations/