Wednesday will be a big day at the California Fish and Game Commission. The commissioners will get a chance to vote on listing the Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf as endangered or threatened in California. It is interesting that this issue is before them as the gray wolf has not been in California for seventy or so years, that is until last year.
One radio-collared wolf entered California from Oregon and subsequently returned after a lengthy visit. The lone wolf apparently did not find what he was looking for – probably a female wolf.
Since the time that wolf entered California, the Center For Biological Diversity (CBD) has petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) for listing of the wolf. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has recommended denial of the petition. For the last six months or so I have been one of the stakeholder representatives who have participated in creation of a wolf management plan, as a volunteer for the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF).
Under guidance from CDFW, many other conservation organizations have expounded on their opinions about wolves as well. Besides MDF, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and California Deer Association have been the represented. But other stakeholders such as the Cattlemen’s Association, the California Farm Bureau and Wool Growers are very involved. Non-hunting conservation groups such as the Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and CBD have also participated.
Although the group is diverse and often has opposing views, the stakeholder group has provided useful comments to DFW in their effort to create a plan.
In my opinion, with no known wolves in California and a wolf management plan nearly complete, a vote for wolf listing on Wednesday would be a sign of incompetence, not just because of the due diligence shown by CDFW.
In support of their position not to list wolves CDFW Director, Charlton Bonham, has expressed a very clear and reasoned explanation. Wolves do not need to be listed as threatened or endangered in order to expand their territory and return to California naturally. In fact the last wolf to migrate to California demonstrated that. By giving the gray wolf a status as Species of Concern, wolves will be protected in California until such time as they meet population goals that are currently being developed. To list the wolf as threatened or endangered would only complicate the process of handling wolves.
Some fear that without the protection of the Endangered Species Act, wolves will be shot on sight. That seems unlikely as wolves are very seldom seen, let alone seen by somebody ready willing and able to break the law and shoot them. And, they will be protected by the classification they receive as a species of concern.
Are wolves endangered in California? Are wolves important in California? Does the public care about the cost of managing wolves? How will California wolves enhance our lives? On Wednesday, April 16, 2014, in Ventura, five people will decide for us. See the Director’s letter below.