UPDATE #1: When I wrote this last week, I thought the review undwerway was a formal 5-Year Review (which is required periodically for endangered species programs) and it’s legally required that public notices for these are to be published in the Federal Register. However, this morning (9/2) I was informed by the Red Wolf Recovery Program assistant coordinator that it’s not a 5-Year Review; it’s a special review that was requested by the State of NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and then later requested by the NC Farm Bureau, and the NC Sportsmen’s Caucus. I’m not clear where this leaves things legally in terms of public notification requirements — although a lawyer involved in the recent red wolf/coyote hunting lawsuit against the State of NC told me she believes the FWS was legally obligated to announce the review in the Federal Register but that they hadn’t in order to (from her perspective) better fly under the radar and make the program dissappear overnight.
UPDATE #2: The assistant coordinator apparently had no knowledge that the FWS intended to issue their press release the Friday before a national Holiday, or that they were going to hold a press teleconference that afternoon. (I couldn’t call in due to previously scheduled appointments — which is probably exactly what the SE Regional Office of the FWS was counting on for most media members the Friday afternoon before Labor Day weekend.) I find it triply suspicious that the regional FWS office failed to notify the Red Wolf Recovery program in advance of its intention to issue a press release and hold a press conference.
For a few weeks now, I’ve been suspecting that something awfully fishy is going on in Red Wolf Country. I can’t escape the premonition that higher-ups in the Fish and Wildlife Service are positioning their pawns to kill or significantly alter the red wolf reintroduction program. Three years have passed since I finished writing my book on red wolves, and it’s been one year since it was published. But so much has changed since then I can only shake my head in disbelief. All the hope I held onto when completing the book is wavering.
Red wolves are globally endangered, and though a captive population exists in some 40-plus breeding facilities across the U.S., the planet’s only wild red wolves, a mere 90 or so, inhabit 1.7 million acres on a spit of coastal swamp and forest known as the Albemarle Peninsula. The first reintroduced red wolves were released into Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge on September 14, 1987. Nearly 27 years later, the FWS appears to be coming under intense pressure from anti-wolf advocates to shut down the red wolf program entirely.
On Friday, August 29, the FWS Southeast Regional Office issued a press release announcing the beginning of a 60-day review of the program and asking for public input. There’s information at the bottom of this post about how to submit comments. But first, there are a few importat things to note about what’s happened, and what hasn’t… taken together, something very fishy is brewing on the horizon: Continue reading