Most residents of California, Oregon and Washington believe wolves should continue to be protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to a new poll released by the nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife. The poll comes as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes public comment on its proposal to strip federal protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48. That includes northern California and the western halves of Oregon and Washington, where there is unoccupied wolf habitat.
Wolves have already been delisted in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where they are hunted as big-game animals.
The poll, conducted in early September for Defenders by Tulchin Research, shows that most Californians, Oregonians and Washingtonians want wolf recovery efforts to continue:
- More than two-thirds in each state agree that wolves are a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage and should be protected in their state (Oregon 68 percent, Washington 75 percent and California 83 percent.
- More than two-thirds in each state agree that wolves play an important role in maintaining deer and elk populations, bringing a healthier balance to ecosystems (Oregon 69 percent, Washington 74 percent and California 73 percent).
- At least two-thirds in each state support restoring wolves to suitable habitat in their states (Oregon 66 percent Washington 71 percent and California 69 percent).
- Large majorities in each state agree that wolves should continue to be protected under the Endangered Species Act until they are fully recovered (Oregon 63 percent, Washington 72 percent and California 80 percent).
“With only about 100 wolves split between Oregon and Washington and none in California, we’re still a long ways from fully restoring wolves to the Pacific Northwest,” said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “It’s disappointing to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service giving up prematurely when so much great wolf habitat remains unoccupied in the region. Only the Endangered Species Act can provide safe passage for wolves between neighboring states by ensuring there are adequate protective measures in place to allow for dispersal into more suitable habitat.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will host public hearings on its delisting proposal in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30. Written comments can be submitted until Oct. 28.