California gray wolf decision delayed. Should it be protected?

California gray wolf advocates will have to wait 90 days to learn if the animal will fall under legal protections. A state board voted unanimously Wednesday to delay a decision on the California gray wolf so it can gather more public comments on the issue.

Gary Kramer/US Fish and Wildlife Service/AP/File
A gray wolf is shown in a file photo provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. A California board voted Wednesday to delay a decision on protecting the California gray wolf.

Advocates for the gray wolf in California will have to wait 90 days before learning if the animal will be listed as endangered, a state board decided Wednesday. Ranchers and state wildlife officials oppose granting the species legal protections.

The five members of the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to delay a decision so they can gather more public comments on protecting the species, which is showing signs of a comeback after being killed off in the 1920s.

State wildlife officials say they don't support the listing because wolves haven't roamed in California for decades and there's no scientific basis to consider them endangered.

Wolves have been absent from California, so researchers have no way of measuring threats or the viability of the animal in the state, said Eric Loft, chief of wildlife programs for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Yet, the animal is iconic of the western landscape and California could easily become the home to functioning wolf packs within a decade, said Chuck Bonham, director of the wildlife agency.

He said he supports wolf conservation efforts but not listing it as endangered.

"You may hear we actually hate wolves," he said, maintaining that wasn't true. "We're committed to the long-term prospect of the wolf."

Advocates' renewed interest in protecting the species started in 2011, when a lone wolf from Oregon — called OR-7 — was tracked crossing into California. The decision to list it or not has been under review for the last year.

The commission gathered in Ventura and heard from more than 60 members of the public, most of them in support of wolves but others in opposition.

Kirk Wilbur of the California Cattlemen's Association, which is fighting wolf protections, said the state's endangered species act is designed to help species at risk of going extinct. The wolf is experiencing the reverse, he said.

"The species is not at risk of disappearing in the state of California," he said. "It is, rather, reappearing."

Mike Williams, a cattle rancher in Ventura County, said wolves cause high stress on cattle, increase illness and weight loss, and kill valuable livestock.

"Wolves are beautiful animals," he said. "But they're also vicious, brutal and efficient killing machines and a threat to people, livestock and pets."

The action in California stands in sharp contrast to the approach taken by other Western states that have successfully reintroduced the wolf to the point they are allowing hunts to reduce their numbers.

Nationally, wolves were near extinction not long ago. They were reintroduced with federal protections in the 1980s and '90s.

Wolves now occupy large parts of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and the Great Lakes.

Federal protections have ended in those two regions, and there is a pending proposal to lift protections across much of the remaining Lower 48 states.

Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity led the effort to protect California's wolves.

She accused state wildlife officials of violating state law by attempting to keep wolves off the California endangered species list.

"The wolf should be on the list," Weiss said. "And it should stay on the list."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.