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Wolves at the Door
Monday, August 29, 2005 - Bangor Daily News

With wolves in nearby states and provinces, the animals are likely to soon spread to Maine. When they get here, state biologists plan to have habitat ready. Beyond this, there is not much the state can or should do to prepare for the arrival of wolves even though

a federal judge ruled recently that the federal government must do more to restore gray wolves in the Northeast.

In April 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgraded gray wolves from an endangered to a threatened species in the eastern part of the country. To do so, it lumped wolves in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York - where their numbers are small or nonexistent - with the healthier populations in the upper Midwest.

Such a strategy violated federal law, U.S. District Court Judge Garvan Murtha ruled recently.

"The [fish and wildlife service] simply cannot downlist or delist an area that it previously determined warrants an endangered listing because it 'lumps together' a core population with a low to nonexistent population outside the core area," the judge wrote.

He ordered the service to re-write its rule for gray wolves. The service has yet to decide whether to appeal the ruling. Judge Murtha's ruling could mean

that gray wolves in the eastern states remain an endangered species. That does not necessarily mean that the federal government would be required to re-introduce wolves here, however.

In the meantime, Maine's policy remains the same: If wolves come here on their own, the Department

of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will be ready to accommodate them. The department does not support the reintroduction of wolves into the state. Reintroduction has rebuilt wolf
populations in the Great Lakes states.

This is a prudent approach. There is still debate over what type of wolf lived in Maine. Putting the wrong type on the ground could have disastrous consequences. Further, there is little public support for a wolf introduction effort, which would also doom it to failure. If there were to be such an effort it would have to be approved by the Legislature. Lawmakers in neighboring New Hampshire have gone so far as to pass a law forbidding the introduction of wolves there.

Until more is known, welcoming wolves that come here on their own while opposing a reintroduction program is the best protection Maine can offer.




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