Feds decide against ESA listing for Alexander Archipelago wolves

A group of Southeast Alaska wolves will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act, according to a Jan. 5 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announcement.

The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the population of gray wolves, known as the Alexander Archipelago wolves, at between 850 and 2,700 animals.

“Although the Alexander Archipelago wolf faces several stressors throughout its range related to wolf harvest, timber harvest, road development and climate-related events in Southeast Alaska and coastal British Columbia, the best available information indicates that populations of the wolf in most of its range are likely stable,” a Fish and Wildlife Service release states.

Conservation groups have petitioned the service to list the wolves as endangered or threatened for more than 20 years. The latest determination comes after a yearlong review of the Alexander Archipelago wolf population in response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity.

In March 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service began a 90-day petition to list the wolves as threatened based on preliminary information at the time. The petition led to the 12-month finding.

Had the wolves been listed, habitat protection measures would likely have further damaged Southeast Alaska’s struggling timber industry. Related efforts by conservationists to get Prince of Wales Island wolves recognized as a distinct population for the purpose of an Endangered Species listing have been unsuccessful as well.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski commended the Fish and Wildlife decision, noting that Alaska has the largest population of gray wolves in the nation.

“There is agreement that the gray wolf population in Southeast Alaska is healthy and stable in most places and growing in others,” Murkowski said in a release. “At a time when timber harvesting on Prince of Wales Island is barely a tenth of its levels of two decades ago, the attempt by some environmental groups to list the wolf seemed to be an effort solely to end the last of the remaining timber industry in Southeast Alaska. Fortunately, it did not work.”

Gathering concrete data on wolf populations and genetics is particularly difficult in the dense Southeast rainforest because of the animals’ elusive nature.

12/06/2016 - 4:23pm