For more than two decades, conservation groups have argued that a wolf and the rainforest in southeast Alaska where it lives are at risk.
While the groups have won strong restrictions on logging of the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest, they have been denied in their efforts to win federal protection for the wolf.
This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied them again: The agency determined that the wolf, known as the Alexander Archipelago wolf, should not be listed as an endangered or threatened species.
While the government agreed with conservationists that the wolf is declining in parts of its range and that loss of its habitat from logging is playing a role in that decline, it said the overall population of the wolf appears to be healthy.
“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,” the Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.
Named for a collection of remote islands, the wolf actually ranges across much of heavily forested mainland southeast Alaska and the coast of British Columbia in Canada. Conservationists pressing for its protection have focused on wolves in the archipelago, which includes on Prince of Wales Island, an expanse of nearly 2,600 square miles with about 6,000 people.
Part of Prince of Wales is being logged under one of the largest timber sales in the Tongass in two decades, and estimates say the island could now have as few as 50 wolves, down from about 300 two decades ago. Logging can also reduce habitat for deer, a critical food source for the wolves.
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SOURCE: LA Times, William Yardley