Emergency Endangered Species Act Petition Filed.
In an attempt to protect drastically declining wolf population in Southeast Alaska, six conservation organizations (Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Greenpeace and The Boat Company) petitioned for an emergency listing of Alexander Archipelago wolves under the Endangered Species Act. The petition follows a decision by the Federal Subsistence Board that denied the groups’ July request to close federal wolf-hunting and trapping seasons on Prince of Wales and nearby islands. More information can be found in this press release from The Center for Biological Diversity.
On September 15, 2015 The Alaska Federal Subsistence Management Board released a statement regarding the hunt for these imperiled wolves in GMU 2. The ISC (Interagency Staff Committee) found that the closure to subsistence and non-subsistence uses was not necessary for the conservation of healthy wolf populations or to continue subsistence uses of wolves in Unit 2. Rather than heeding the warning of scientists, professionals, and knowledgeable conservationists, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service consulted with “the four local Federally-recognized Alaska Native Tribes, as well as several Federally and non-Federally qualified subsistence users with local knowledge of Unit 2 wolf populations”. In other words the local “knowledge” of hunters and trappers was held in authority over scientific evidence, facts and research. The “harvest” quota remains at 9 wolves for the 2015-2016 seasons. The Alaska Board of Game originally established a guideline which would have allowed a quota up to 18 wolves. If the board felt this compromise would be found to be satisfactory, and conciliate both hunters and conservationists alike, they were highly mistaken.
At this point in time I believe it is imperative that we support the aforementioned organizations with an email to Sally Jewell (Secretary of the Interior), Daniel Ashe (Director U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and Geoffrey Haskett (Regional Director, Alaska Regional Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Please be a voice for this imperiled species, cut and paste the following email (feel free to personalize or add your polite thoughts) and send to: email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com
I have also added several tweets at the bottom of this post which will be helpful to our cause though not nearly as crucial as an email. Thankyou in advance for your anticipated support. Please share this action alert via twitter.
Dear Mrs. Jewell, Mr. Ashe, and Mr. Haskett,
Please list, on an emergency basis, the Alexander Archipelago Wolf (Canis Lupus Ligoni) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Despite a confirmed 60 percent population decline on Prince of Wales and accompanying islands, ADF&G and the Federal Subsistence Board (FSB) have opened the wolf hunting and trapping season with a 9 wolf quota. Fish and Game’s report estimated that the wolf population on and around Prince of Wales in fall 2014 was between 50 and 159, and more than likely approximately 89 wolves. This estimate does not account for the 29 wolves reported taken in the 2014/2015 winter hunting and trapping season (1/3rd of entire population), nor does it account for any illegal takes during that time or since, which studies indicate are substantial.
With a population as low as possibly 50 individuals, this year’s season will push this iconic species to the brink of extinction.
Data in the Alaska Department of Fish and Games’ report shows that, as of fall 2014, only 7 to 32 female Archipelago wolves remain. That is 7 to 32 female wolves in an approximate 2,600 square mile area. This would be possibly 1 breeding wolf per 371.4 square miles. Even if they are able to reproduce at these reduced numbers, the risk of inbreeding is high, putting them at further risk of extinction due to the loss of genetic diversity, which can negatively affect the species in many ways, such as weakened immune systems unable to fight off disease, skeletal deformities, and smaller litters with higher mortality. Genetic diversity is always a crucial factor with isolated species. If the decline in numbers is not arrested and recovery not immediately commenced, the Alexander Archipelago wolves fate will be sealed. Extirpation will be imminent.
Further evidence of a dire situation was proven when Alaska Department of Fish and Game, during their field season this spring, visited about a dozen known den sites and found only one active den, with only one pup, indicating either entire wolf packs have been wiped out or have been decimated to a point leading to their fragmentation.
On September 15, 2015 The Alaska Federal Subsistence Management Board released a statement regarding the hunt for these imperiled wolves in GMU 2. The ISC (Interagency Staff Committee) found that the closure to subsistence and non-subsistence uses was not necessary for the conservation of healthy wolf populations or to continue subsistence uses of wolves in Unit 2. Rather than heeding the warning of scientists, professionals, and knowledgeable conservationists, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service consulted with “the four local Federally-recognized Alaska Native Tribes, as well as several Federally and non-Federally qualified subsistence users with local knowledge of Unit 2 wolf populations”. In other words the local “knowledge” of hunters and trappers was held in authority over scientific evidence, facts and research. The “harvest” quota remains unchanged at 9 wolves for the 2015-2016 seasons. The Alaska Board of Game originally established a guideline which would have allowed a quota up to 18 wolves. I imagine the board felt this compromise would be found to be satisfactory, and conciliate both hunters and conservationists alike.
It is my understanding that since significant illegal wolf harvest is occurring in Unit 2, it has been requested that the Subsistence Board direct the USFS and the USFWS to begin coordinated law enforcement efforts to ensure illegal take of wolves in Unit 2 is stopped, and that the local USFS manager has also requested additional law enforcement officer support in Unit 2 during the wolf hunting and trapping seasons. However with 3,000 miles of logging roads in the area, 580 alone in the Big Thorne timber project area, as well as habitat destruction from decades of logging, wolf poaching is rife and nearly impossible to curb, as is enforcing such a low quota:
Both ADF&G and the FSB attempt to enforce a season’s wolf quota by counting wolf skins that are brought in for sealing. Both State of Alaska and FSB regulations have GMU- 2 specific requirements for the sealing of wolf skins taken by trapping. The FSB regulation also applies to skins taken by hunting. In these cases a skin must be sealed within 14 days. However, ADF&G’s GMU-2 specific regulation applies only to skins taken by trapping. Skins taken by hunting fall under a general statewide regulation that requires sealing within 30 days. Regardless of which time limit applies (14 or 30 days) it is nearly impossible to enforce such a small quota. This is evident from the quota for 2014/2015 being exceeded by 16% despite an emergency order (which did not take effect for four more days) closing the season. The smaller the quota, the greater the chances are of the quota being exceeded.
Further compounding this disastrous situation is the unregulated amount of, and location of, trappers and hunters. Neither the State of Alaska nor the Subsistence Board have regulations that limit the number of trappers and hunters who may take wolves in GMU-2, nor is there any limit on the number of traps.
Threats to this unique subspecies are amplified because the wolf represents a distinct and isolated gene pool and now very few individuals remain. The Alexander Archipelago wolves are isolated and genetically distinct from other North American wolves because of tidewater barriers and coastal mountains that limit migration to the rest of the continent. The GMU-2 population is further isolated and may be genetically distinct from other Alexander Archipelago wolves. Scientific evidence determines that coastal wolves endemic to temperate rainforests are diverged from neighbouring, interior continental wolves; a finding that demands new strategies must be taken managing this species if they are to survive.
It is obvious that the situation for wolves in Game Management Unit 2 is alarming, and that immediate, decisive action is necessary to rescue this population from extirpation. I understand that several organizations have petitioned for emergency endangered species protection for the wolves on Prince of Wales and ask that you implement this protection immediately.
Thankyou for your time and consideration of this extremely urgent matter,