Ranking Member Grijalva Leads Letter With Key Democratic Leaders Urging Interior Secretary to Revive Red Wolf Recovery Program

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and eight other key Democratic Members of Congress – including Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies – sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell this morning calling on her to override the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) recent decision to eliminate its recovery program for red wolves. The letter points out that the decision was made despite scientific consensus that red wolf recovery can succeed if the agency continues and amplifies its existing efforts.

The full letter is available at http://bit.ly/2gCAii0.

“The agency is bowing to political pressure and ignoring its own experts, and that’s a terrible sign for the species,” Grijalva said. “Secretary Jewell needs to step in and make the service follows the law instead of a few local landowners with a political axe to grind. The Endangered Species Act doesn’t allow us to make it up as we go along.”

Reintroduced to the wild in Eastern North Carolina in the late 1980s, red wolves established a stable breeding population that grew to more than 130 individuals. Poaching, a lack of enforcement, and FWS failure to sustain its successful conservation efforts have caused the wild population of one of the world’s most endangered mammals to fall to only 28. 

In September, the agency formally announced that it was rolling back its red wolf recovery program over the strong objection of the scientific community. As today’s letter points out, a scientific team that conducted a population viability analysis to guide the Service’s red wolf policy recently wrote that FWS’ plan “is full of ‘alarming misinterpretations’ that distract from the recovery program and jeopardize the continued existence of the species in the wild.”

Soon after the 2012 high water mark of the red wolf population – “likely in response to complaints by a small number of vocal opponents of red wolf recovery,” as the letter argues – the agency eliminated its red wolf recovery coordinator position, redirected staff elsewhere, ended its successful pup fostering and coyote sterilization activities, halted red wolf reintroductions into the wild and suspended its red wolf education program.

Today’s signatories urge Secretary Jewell to take three steps:

1. Direct the Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately withdraw its recent decision memorandum on the red wolf recovery program, and resume the recovery program activities that were being undertaken in 2012 prior to the Service's decision to abandon the species, including the landowner education program, and to dedicate additional personnel and resources to this effort.

2. Direct the Fish and Wildlife Service to resume reintroductions of captive red wolves into the wild population and to resume the successful adaptive management program to control hybridization, as well as, incorporate the results of the PVA team into its efforts to improve management of both the captive and wild red wolf populations.

3. Direct the Fish and Wildlife Service to increase law enforcement efforts to investigate and recommend prosecution of illegal killing of red wolves.

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