Protection Sought Again for Rare Alaskan Wolf
August 12, 2011
The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wednesday to give Endangered Species Act protection to Southeast Alaska's rare Alexander Archipelago wolf. This is not the first time protection has been sought for this wolf.
This wolf was photographed in 2004 north of Ketchikan at approximately Mile 17 North Tongass
The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered protecting the rare Alexander Archipelago wolf several times in the 1990s. The agency chose not to do so, based on new standards for protecting the wolf that the Forest Service included in its 1997 Tongass Forest Plan. The petitioners said Wednesday that unfortunately, the Forest Service has not held up its end of the bargain and has not adequately implemented these standards.
The group's 103-page petition is a detailed review of the science and status of this imperiled species exposing a number of threats to Alexander Archipelago wolves, including the U.S. Forest Service’s unsustainable logging and road-building practices in the Tongass National Forest.
“This unique wolf is a symbol of America's rapidly dwindling wilderness” said Greenpeace forest campaigner Larry Edwards of Sitka. “We've got clear evidence that the Alexander Archipelago wolf is in trouble. This wonderful creature is a key part of Alaska's natural environment and it deserves official protection."
Heavily reliant on old-growth forests, the Alexander Archipelago wolf dens in the root systems of very large trees and primarily hunts Sitka black-tailed deer, which are dependent on high-quality, old-growth forests of the region, in particular for winter survival. A long history of unsustainable clearcut logging on the Tongass National Forest and private and state-owned lands has devastated much of the wolf’s old-growth habitat on the islands of Southeast Alaska. The ongoing scale of old-growth logging imperils the wolf by further reducing and fragmenting the remaining forest stands, to the detriment of the wolf and its deer prey.
Logging operations on the Tongass also result in more road-building, which makes wolves vulnerable to hunting and trapping said the petitioners. As many as half the wolves killed on the Tongass are killed illegally according to the petitioners, and hunting and trapping are occurring at unsustainable levels in many parts of the region. Despite scientific evidence showing that Alexander Archipelago wolf populations cannot survive in areas with high road density, the petitioners say the Forest Service continues to build new logging roads in the Tongass National Forest. Road density is especially a concern to the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace on heavily fragmented Prince of Wales Island and neighboring islands, home to an important population of Alexander Archipelago wolves.
“We already know what it will take to save Alexander Archipelago wolves: It’s a simple matter of not building new logging roads in areas where wolves are already getting hammered and of ending unsustainable logging practices,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, the Forest Service seems more interested in kowtowing to the timber industry than in preserving our forests for future generations.”
In August 2011, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned four decisions by the US Forest Service to allow logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest. At issue was the assessment of deer habitat, the primary prey of the rare Alexander Archipelago wolf, or “Islands Wolf.”
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