The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will consider the possible protection Southeast Alaska wolves under the Endangered Species Act.
The decision to review the wolves' status comes two years after the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace submitted a petition to protect the species known as the Alexander Archipelago wolf.
"We determined that there was substantial information presented, enough to make us think we probably should do a real status review," Steve Brockmann, FWS's Southeast Alaska coordinator, told reporters last week.
Brockmann says his agency has a duty to ensure the wolf is adequately protected, but says he hopes a spot on the endangered species list isn't necessary. "Honestly the Fish and Wildlife Service would prefer to leave management of the wolf with the state of Alaska where it belongs," he said.
Alaska's Department of Fish and Game agrees that management should remain with state officials. "We’re confident that any potential conservation concerns can be adequately addressed through existing mechanisms, including state regulatory mechanisms that are out there," Doug Vincent-Lang, director for the department's Division of Wildlife Conservation, recently told Alaska Public Media.
But environmental advocates and conservationists in the area, like Greenpeace's Larry Edwards, are concerned that increased logging operations are going to put undue pressure on the wolf, and that hunting quotas aren't being properly set. They say similar pressures have pushed wolves to the brink of extinction on Prince of Wales Island.
"We knew there was a strong case for pursuing a listing and we’re glad to see that the agency’s decided that our petition had merit," Edwards said.
Though advocates for the Alaskan wolf were pleased to hear federal officials are finally paying attention to their concerns, any final decision on the wolf's status isn't likely to happen for another year or two. An official review won't begin at least until the initial 60-day public comments period is over; once begun, the review will last at least 12 months.
[Alaska Public Media]