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US Used Unsound Science in Making Recommendations to Delist Gray Wolf from Endangered Species List

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Feb 07, 2014 04:35 PM EST
A pair of gray wolves in 1998
The Obama administration's proposal to bump the gray wolf off the federal endangered species list could lead to the endangerment of other species, according to researchers who warn that, if passed the way it is currently written, the rule would set a dangerous precedent. (Photo : Reuters)

After receiving a peer-reviewed analysis of its proposal to remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and add the Mexican gray wolf, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will reopen its public comment period.

The move comes after an independent analysis by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) concluded that the recommendations the USFWS used to put the proposal forward were not rooted in sound science.

The USFWS proposal was based around the notion that the US Northeast and Midwest were home a separate species, the eastern wolf. If that were the case, then gray wolf recovery would not be needed in those areas and justified the move to delist the species as endangered.

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In a statement by the University of California, Santa Barbara, which is home to the NCEAS, the panel members report a unanimous consensus "that the USFWS's earlier decisions were not well supported by the available science."

Furthermore, "the panel highlighted that the proposed rule was strongly dependent on a single publication, which was found to be preliminary and not widely accepted by the scientific community. The panelists identified additional scientific research that should be considered before proposing a change in the listing status of the gray wolf."

USFWS Director Dan Ashe said in a statement that the peer review process is an important step in the process of evaluating species health.

"We are incorporating the peer review report into the public record for the proposed rulemaking, and accordingly, reopening the public comment period to provide the public with the opportunity for input," Ashe said.

Steven Courtney, an NCEAS panel member involved in the case told The Associated Press that the peer-review process's results were "unequivocal."

"The science used by the Fish and Wildlife Service concerning genetics and taxonomy of wolves was preliminary and currently not the best available science," he said.

Chris Tollefson, a spokesman for the USFWS, told the AP that "we do take the comments from peer reviewers very seriously and we need to take those into account."

Moving forward, another round of public commentary on the gray wolf proposal will be opened on Feb. 10, the USFWS said, adding that "interested stakeholders will have an additional 45 days to provide information that may be helpful to the Service in making a final determination on the proposal."

The public can access the peer-review and make comments at www.fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery.

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