Conservationists seek to expand wolf range across U.S.

Center for Biological Diversity seeks to return wolves to West Coast, New England, Southern Rockies and Great Plains

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed litigation in response to the lack of response to their petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand protections for wolves across a significant portion of their historical range.

Conservationists seek to expand wolf range across U.S..
Laura Zuckerman – Reuters

Lawsuit Launched to Recover Wolves Across Country
Center for Biological Diversity Press Release.



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  1. Jon Way Avatar

    Here in the Northeast, I am part of a petition that seeks the same thing. This petition was denied by the Feds basically saying the catch 22 that we document wolves but not populations. Well how do you think populations start (from not being killed):

    John Glowa and I co-wrote a paper that is also under review in a peer reviewed journal on the same topic.

    Yet you can kill coywolves in unlimited numbers and get slapped on the wrist for killing a “pure” (likely gray-eastern wolf hybrid) wolf as we discussed in the previous most on the Missouri “coyote”.

  2. Davej Avatar

    In terms of strategy, this seems like incredibly bad timing.
    Best to avoid handing your opponent a tool more powerful than your own. In this case I’d bet some Republican Congressmen couldn’t be happier than to see this.

    1. mikepost Avatar

      Dave, this is what happens at CBD. You put a bunch of well educated, well meaning relatively young liberal attornies in a room and leave them to come up with their view of the natural world and conservation and you should not be surprised. CBD is probably as biased in many decisions as is the government.

      1. JB Avatar


        What is an unbiased decision? It seems that CBD is using the law to advance their political agenda–the preservation of biological diversity. (Personally, I think it is a mistake to continue to use the ESA to beat opponents of conservation into submission–all stick and no carrot may just be enough to galvanize opposition to the ESA.) Regardless, interest groups are “biased” by nature insomuch as they seek to advance a particular agenda.

      2. Phil Avatar

        I don’t see the CBD as being bias at all. I do agree that if Wolves are going to be inhabiting their former historic range it should occur naturally, as the Cougar has done in California. I am glad Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone, but look how they have spread throughout Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. This was done naturally by Wolves. I believe eventually they will reside in many more former territory ranges, and I think it would be a good thing. If they are reintroduced in other areas, you may have the backlash on them because, as someone else mentioned, they were forced upon those areas.

      3. Brian Ertz Avatar


        wolves are listed throughout their historic range in the lower 48 … but the USFWS should not have to come up with a recovery plan because it’s politically controversial ???

      4. Save bears Avatar

        Wolves were also re-introduced into central Idaho, they didn’t just migrate on their own…

  3. Phil Avatar

    jon way: You co-wrote a petition to protect Wolves in your area? I applaud you in doing so. I read your paper and it is well written. Although it was back in Jan of 2009, hopefully it is worth it on your part and John Glowa’s part, and hopefully the Fish and Wildlife Services reacts to protecting Wolves in your area due to this paper.

  4. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The anti-wolf ranters have been calling for putting wolves in California and other places where they think all the pro-wolf people live. They should love this. Look for Ron Gillette to start holding statewide meetings in favor of this proposal.

    1. Phil Avatar

      Speaking of Gillette, what is going on with him? How about Bruce Hemming? These were two of the most anti-wolf extremists around. Is it true that Bruce Hemming actually lives in North Dakota and not Idaho?

      1. jon Avatar

        Ron Gillette’s father died very recently. He was 94 years old.

      2. JEFF E Avatar
        JEFF E

        Bruce Hemming is a foul mouthed zero. He has a very curious fixation on rape. It would be very interesting to see what was on his computers hard drive.

      3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

        It turns out an incredible number of these anti-wolf extremists are not from the areas with wolves. Outside agitators!

        I was amazed!

        My turn to tell them to get the hell out of my country — Idaho 😉

      4. Rick Hammel Avatar
        Rick Hammel

        And Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Colorado

    2. jon Avatar

      I was going to bring the same thing up Larry, but you beat me to it. They have been saying all along why don’t we put wolves in California and other so called “liberal” places.

      1. Phil Avatar

        I hear that quite a bit. I have also heard from the anti-wolfers to put Wolves in Central Park because they would have lots of food around, but this comes right after the statement that the animal rights people are anti-human. If you connect the two statements together, the being anti-human for animal rights one and putting Wolves in Central Park for killings, the real anti-human characters come out from these individuals.

      2. ProWolf in WY Avatar
        ProWolf in WY

        That Central Park line gets so old…

  5. JimT Avatar

    We, the progressive side of this issue, would LOVE to see wolves in the Blue States. Problem is..they are usually the oldest, most developed states lacking sufficient intact habitat to support viable wolf populations. So, it is a red herring argument by the anti wolf folks. Eastern US..probably the most viable habitat site would be Baxter in Maine..isolated, almost no human population centers, and allows for wolves from Canada to come over if the St. Lawrence freezes over and acts as a land bridge.

  6. Phil Avatar

    Tim: I have never been farther East beyond the outerskirts of Ohio, but good to hear some news from someone who lives there. Many anti-wolf individuals use that same statement “Let them in the East have our Wolves…” and then post another comment stating “…but, their senators and governors will refuse to bring in Wolves into their states…”. Your post clarifies as to why certain states cannot accept Wolves. Large human populations will no doubt have conflicts with Wolves, and a lacking of habitat is the most important factor.

    1. william huard Avatar
      william huard

      Upper NY state is very suitable habitat for wolves, as well as Northern NH. I don’t know if FED law would trump state law I know NH passed a resolution stating they didn’t want wolves in that state- does anyone know how thgat would work?

      1. jon Avatar

        I would love to see wolves in Maine William, but I don’t think the “sportsmen” would. The sportsmen want to eradicate coyotes because they feel they are eating too many deer. You could only imagine what their feelings would be like if wolves were brought back.

      2. Save bears Avatar

        If they have passed a resolution in their state house, I don’t know who would win, but you are looking at a very long and expensive legal battle that would probably have to go to the Supreme Court to be decided…

      3. Save bears Avatar

        Also, part of it may come down to federal vs. private or state owned lands as well.

      4. Phil Avatar

        I just read an article that said 90% of New Hampshire is wooded with Moose, Deer and such. You are right, this would be great conditions for predators like Wolves.

    2. JimT Avatar

      They looked at Adirondack Park a number of years ago, but ultimately decided it is too fragmented by inholdings and small towns and that conflicts with residents would be problematic. I am not sure how I would stand on more reintroduction programs given the experience of the Northern Rockies and the hatred that in essence is calling for a second extinction of wolves by the vested interests. But then again, I don’t see the ranchers or the trophy game interests supporting ESA protections for naturally occurring populations either, at least in the Red States.

      Baxter is perfect; and Maine has a reputation for being fairly level headed. NH…a purple state that tends to be reactionary and very protective of their curmudgeon, don’t mess with us reputation. There are empty spaces in northeast Vermont and Northeast NH where the towns and economies there are in severe crisis. Lumber and paper industries are gone, and there is little else there. Perhaps tourist dollars related to wolves would be a welcome thing, and lead them to compromise. It isn’t as if there are large dairy farms there, and any sheep farms tend to be small and easily protected, usually by guard llamas.

      1. Ryan Avatar


        Wolves will eat Lamas, and the only place that wolves have brought in tourist income to my knowledge is Yellowstone. The dense woods of the NE are not exactly prime wolf viewing habitat.

      2. Ryan Avatar


        As said before, non biased sources will go a long way to providing credibility to your arguments.

  7. Phil Avatar

    The major quotes I have heard from Bruce is anyone who is for Wolves is a “Neo Nazi” and “Eco Terrorist”. I always wondered how he came up with those sentiments? It was the same quotes on articles I read that he commented on. Then he would post all of the Wolf attacks on humans in the past 100 years across the globe and try to portray the issue as “occurance” on a daily basis with the few examples.

  8. Save bears Avatar

    In looking at a map of NH, there is not very much Federal Public Lands in that state

    1. Save bears Avatar

      Looking at the map of Maine, it looks like Maine has virtually no Federal Lands

      And New York Has none, so that could make for a big road block when trying to restore wolves to those areas.

      1. JimT Avatar

        Those states also don’t have the big vested interests like the Red States out here do..mainly towns and some hunting folks would need to be brought into the process.So, there wouldn’t be the same power brokers telling politicians what to do as there are in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana… Remember, these are the states that grew up on a tradition of town meetings every week to set policies. This tradition is well respected by politicians there, and any process would be a lengthy one of building consensus and agreement amongst those towns.

      2. Brian Ertz Avatar

        central park is public land

    2. JimT Avatar

      Almost none at all…some smallish national forests. No, most of the land would be state and perhaps some old land holdings by timber and paper companies. There have been some big purchases in the last several years by TPL and TNC that have then been turned into protected lands with some of the traditional activities grandfathered in.

      1. Save bears Avatar


        Based on what has happened in the West I would think it would have to be one hell of a sell job to put wolves in those states, especially since it sounds like there has already been a state resolution passed in one of those states..

        And believe me I am not taking sides, but putting a federal program of that nature in states that have little federal land is going to a tough sell in my opinion..

      2. Save bears Avatar

        In looking at many of the maps for the east, there is not a whole lot of federal land in most of those states….

      3. JimT Avatar

        I think you are right; it will take some time and some consistent leadership by the Federal folks to signal the benefits of wolves won’t significantly interfere with the traditional activities. But, right now, the big problem is candidate habitat back there…Got to have a place to put them before you can start convincing folks to bring them back.

      4. william huard Avatar
        william huard

        I think the largest landowner is Plum Creek timber.

      5. Save bears Avatar

        Plum Creek owns 33,000 acres in NH

        884,000 in Maine and
        nothing in New York…

        Their largest land holding is in Montana at 972,000 acres..

      6. WM Avatar

        In all candor, I am not sure how important public landownership is for a reintroduction in states that don’t have so much federal land. I don’t think the GL wolves in MN, MI and WI exclusively occupy public lands. In the NRM I think timber companies like Plum Creek, Weyerhauser, Potlatch and many other large timber lands owners like Hartford Insurance either are now or will become candidate wolf habitat (like the High Lonesome in C0 that wants them). Same is true for railroad, school, state and county owned lands.

        So, it seems the net should be cast a little broader, and folks should be looking at “habitat type” for prey as well as conflict free areas, regardless of ownership.

        This stuff all feeds into the “significant portion of range” argument. Landownership is not so important, unless the landowner wants to make an issue out of it.

      7. SAP Avatar

        . . . “unless the landowner wants to make an issue out of it.”


        Baxter State Park is 1/10 the size of Yellowstone NP, and Yellowstone is contiguous with even wilder NF Wilderness Areas along most of its boundary. Rocky Mountain NP in CO is about 1/8 the size Yellowstone.

        By most anyone’s definition of “viable” or “self-sustaining,” wolves in such places would have to be functionally connected to other wolf populations. Restoration in these places may be feasible; however, since connectivity will be critical anyway, I’m in favor of accomplishing restoration through connectivity-natural recolonization, rather than through translocations.

      8. Save bears Avatar


        The populations in MN, MI and WI are not re-introduced populations, I think that will make a big difference on how this type of action would be perceived and accepted..

        In my opinion the perception of being forced or accept is two entirely different things, you start using a Federal Program to re-introduce wolves in states that have little or no Federal lands, is not going to go over well, opposed to naturally recolonizing animals…so to my way of thinking yes it does make a big difference..

      9. WM Avatar


        Thanks for the reminder, ya I am aware the GL wolves were not a reintroduction, but rather a “repopulation.” But most of these repopulated wolves spend a fair amount of time on land that is not federally or state owned without conflict except from the hunters and a few livestock owners. And you are probably right about the lower “acceptance” level when it comes to private lands associated with a reintroduction. However, to date, that has not seemed to come up alot on private forested lands in the NRM with its reintroduced experimental population wolves. Lots of wolves on Potlatch lands and other timber lands, some of which provide good prey populations because of the logging activities and improved habitat. The more contentious areas, as we know, are private ranches with livestock, or those public land grazing allotments. Guess the real issue is likely whether wolves would tend to eat, harass or cause weight loss in some animal you own.

        In MN, WI, MI wolves, even though a “repopulation” seems to cause the most problem when it is time to count them all. The states rely on reports from landowners of various types for population count observations, augmented by a few overflights and computer model that factors in estimated pack size.

        I mentioned CBD also had a petition to FWS in 2001 to get wolves into N CA /SW OR. Both have a fair amount of federal and state lands there. But, as Ryan pointed out, the locals won’t want them. With your advice I will modify the statement to say ownership is not so important as “suitable habitat” and “acceptance” in the equation.



        I think I have mentioned before the WA draft plan (the final is not done yet) contemplated a fair amount of translocation because there is discontinuous habitat (too many people and the interior Columbia basin is pretty barrne in spots), and the state has already acknowledged the wolves from the NRM as well as those repopulating from Canada are likely to get in trouble in spots, so they just built in translocation to keep densities down, in the belief that it would keep human-wolf conflicts down. Their challenge will be how to keep the genetics sound with that approach. They also did not address what happens when densities get higher, as they surely will. Out migration will happen everywhere if densities get to high and prey thins out (especially if it pisses off the hunters as it surely will after the first three dozen wolves or so start in on the elk herds).

        The prime example of density reduction is Yellowstone which topped out at nearly 200 wolves with all those elk, and is now down to less than 100 as they have moved on to where prey is more plentiful and less wary.

        Awhile back we heard from John Glowa, who believes wolves could repopulate from Canada into the far northeast states (especially Maine) if the Canucks wouldn’t keep from killing them off, as they have done for decades. Tough to get across the St. Lawrence River and into the US from southern Quebec and New Brunswick. Maybe John can enlighten us some more on that, as this proposal should surely have his interest.

      10. JimT Avatar

        SAP, the statistic about Baxter is misleading in terms of the amount of land potentially usable at wolf habitat. If you examine the lands west and north of the Park, you will see they are virtually uninhabited, very wild lands. You have to go over to Presque Isle, Grand Falls, Van Buren areas before you pick up any population centers again…

  9. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    I know for a fact moose populations in Maine and New hampshire have exploded due to the lack of predators. Why should hunters have all the fun. Wouldn’t it make sense to restore a sense of ecosystem balance

    1. Phil Avatar

      William: It would make sense, but it would anger a lot of hunters, as it has in the Northwest. To me, I would say Wolves in any region with a lot of Deer, Moose, etc would be good. It would be good for ecosystems and prey population management. But, others would see it as bad.

  10. Phil Avatar

    Ryan: In the United States, Yellowstone is mainly the only place where tourists can see Wolves and bring in money. The other places are non National Parks, unless I am wrong on this. Actually, Isle Royale in Michigan brings in a good amount of money from tourists, nowhere near the $35 million or so that Yellowstone Wolves bring in, but a good amount for the small island with 23 Wolves in it. I did read somewhere a couple months ago that Biologists are coming together to take tourguides of people who want to see Wolves in the wild in Idaho. Does anyone know anything about this? They are trying to make it similar to an African Safari Tour, or one of those tours people can go on in the Arctic to see Polar Bears, but this one is mainly for Wolf watchers.

    1. timz Avatar

      Phil, wolves are rarely seen on Isle Royal, I believe Rolf Petersen wrote he only caught a glimpse of a couple the whole time he did research there. In Idaho wolf watching tours would not be viable either they are just too hard to find.
      I spend many hours, days and in fact live in Central Idaho’s wolf country and on only 5 occasions have seen wolves, 4 of them for a brief second, and I was lucky enough to observe a pack of 5 for about 15 minutes. I do hear them fairly often however.

  11. JB Avatar

    To be frank, I don’t think anyone needs to worry about reintroductions anytime soon. The Mexican and Red wolf reintroductions have been $ and time sinks, and the only successful reintroduction (the N. Rockies) has turned into a political “nightmare” for FWS. I just don’t think reintroductions are politically viable at this point.

    Regardless, it seems to me that the first thing that needs to happen is that FWS needs to determine the status of the wolves that are already in the northeast; that is, are they a listable entity (i.e. a recognized species, subspecies, or DPS), and if so, does this population meet the definition of a threatened or endangered species?

    1. WM Avatar

      It appears FWS has already given an indication of whether a Northeast wolf recovery is practical. This is the second FWS/Interior response to the petition of Jon Way/John Glowa from June of this year:

      The legal question CBD will be raising (among others) in their pending law suit is whether FWS did an adequate job in reaching such a conclusion – Jon Way’s reference to the Catch-22 analysis.

      Interesting assertion from the Defenders website:

      ++Studies have shown that suitable habitat and sufficient prey exist for wolves northern Maine, northern New Hampshire, Vermont and Adirondack Park in upstate New York. This research suggests that the Northeast could support at least 1,200 wolves and perhaps as many as 1,800. Wolf recovery could take place in one of two ways. The first, natural recolonization, would depend on wolves dispersing from populations in Canada into the United States on their own. The second, reintroduction, would involve capturing wolves from Canadian populations and relocating them into suitable habitat in the Northeast.++

      1. JB Avatar

        Thanks, WM. It appears the Service is attempting to address the first question I raised (i.e., is this population a listable entity) but notes that the science is rapidly evolving (17 publications on the matter in the past two years). Giving “wolf politics”, I expect they will move very cautiously in making a listing status determination for wolves/coywolves in this area.

      2. JB Avatar

        Sorry, that should read: “Given ‘wolf politics’…”

  12. Phil Avatar

    Save Bears: Yes. They were reintroduced in Central Idaho as well. It’s just that you mainly hear of the Yellowstone reintroduction and not the Central Idaho one.

    1. Save bears Avatar

      Actually we hear more about the central Idaho re-introduction more than we hear about Yellowstone here in the west, I hear far less heated discussion concerning Yellowstone than I do Idaho..

  13. John Glowa Avatar

    The availability, or lack thereof, of federal land in the northeast has nothing to do with wolf recovery here. The issue of wolf reintroduction is a non-issue. In my opinion, it will never happen, nor is it necessary. During the winter months the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Lake Ontario is NOT maintained as a shipping channel and is allowed to freeze. For this reason, the one hundred or so miles of river serve not as a barrier to wolf dispersal, but as a conduit through which wolves can travel and then cross the river where they wish. We have been advocating a Bi-National Recovery Plan with Canada in hopes that Canada will allow wolves to live so that they can disperse into the U.S. Increased protections for wolves around Algonquin Park may be having this as an unintended consequence. A major problem continues to be the killing of wolves in the U.S. because neither the states nor the federal government are doing anything to address the similarity of appearance issue with regard to wolves and coywolves.

    1. WM Avatar

      Thanks John,

      I have long been trying to dispell the notion that federal land is a necessary element of wolf “recovery” or “reintroduction” in SOME areas of the US, although it strengthens the political issue of “the people’s land for the people’s wolves.”

      My recollection (is it correct?) from our conversation some months back is that Canadian farmers in Quebec (and maybe New Brunswick) have had a scorched earth policy of controlling wolf population that make it across a frozen-over St. Lawrence River, thus it would still be a pretty low probability event for wolves coming into the US from Southern Canada. Is anything significant/tangible being done at this time on the Canadian side to foster a wolf population in proximity to your Maine/VT/NH area to make repopulation more likely, or is it pure chance that any make it through, until a BI-National plan is formally in place?

  14. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    We are talking about wolf restoration on the Eastern Seaboard, what about restoration in California? I have found limited information on some half-hearted proposals but nothing that seems to serious. I imagine most of Southern California would be out of the question, but what about Northern California? Places like the Sierra Nevada or along the border with Oregon?

    1. WM Avatar


      I think I made reference to this petition by Defenders in 2001. Here it is again, including an assertion that N CA and SW OR could possibly support up to nearly 500 wolves, mostly on public lands from a habitat perspective:

      The petition was denied. However, the companion issue, some want to simply ignore or forget, is that one or more hunter groups might support such a proposal – you guessed it – if hunting were allowed.

  15. John Glowa Avatar

    We know that wolves are coming into the northeast from Canada. We don’t know how many or where they are coming from. We also don’t know if we have a breeding wolf populatioin in the northeast. I believe there is one and I think that if some DNA work was done to compare the wolves we’ve had here, it would likely show that some of these animals were related. This is the kind of work that the USFWS should be doing, in my opinion. If they are, they aren’t talking. We pretty much hear through the grapevine of any really large canids killed in Canada south of the St. Lawrence. I don’t know that there is a “scorched earth” policy against wolves in Quebec south of the St. Lawrence. The Quebec government doesn’t like to talk about wolves south of the St. Lawrence, so we don’t really know what is happening. Very clearly, they don’t want them there. Period. Since wolves disperse at any time of the year, surely some can and do survive and either they or their descendants have come into the U.S. over the past couple of decades. I really believe that natural wolf recolonization here in the northeast is inevitable, but only if they continue to have federal protection and only if the ESA is enforced. Right now, to my knowledge nothing is being done here in the northeast (e.g. limiting the killing of coywolves) to protect wolves.

  16. Linda H Avatar
    Linda H

    I’d love to see wolves in Rocky Mtn. Nat’l. Park–now we have fences everywhere to “protect” vegetation from the elk. It doesn’t look like a national park–it looks like a schoolyard.

    1. WM Avatar


      I have posted this link before. Here is a partial answer to the question you pose, but do not directly raise – whether they could be reintroduced to RMNP.

      This is the official published letter from the RMNP Superintendent.

      The other option is the gradual repopulation of wolves from further north, which if WY keeps its predator zone, or acts as though it is a predator zone, ignoring FWS protections, it may be awhile for a repopulation.

      I don’t know whether much has changed, but when I made queries nearly two years ago, the sense was that not many folks wanted them that badly.

      I don’t know what the sentiment is today, but the delisting fiasco has probably polarized some, including the elk hunters, and RMEF, which has a presence here with CO’s over 300,000 elk, largest of any state. The CO Division of Wildlife, which basically shelved their wolf plan, seems kind of silent. I haven’t looked at their website for quite awhile, but they didn’t give much visibility, probably wishing the issue would just go away.

      1. Linda H Avatar
        Linda H

        Actually, RMNP has a new stand. They say that if the wolves move in, they will let them. There was an article in the Denver Post last month. There have been isolated, confirmed sightings of single wolves in the park, but no pairs yet. Locals are in favor of the wolves. That’s not the problem. I’m sure the silence of DOW and RMEF is an indication to their disdain for this policy change. We here in the area love it–would love to see the balance of nature for a change.

      2. WM Avatar


        Are you located near RMNP? From what I understood when RMNP made its formal decision , it was the folks in Estes Park (population 6,000), maybe even Granby or Allenspark, who were among those who didn’t want wolves so much, because it would likely mean more elk in town in the winter avoiding wolves, and then the wolves following. I was told representatives of Banff, CAN were consulted, and told them of that possibility. Wolves in/near town would also increase dog conflicts. RMNP is much smaller than Yellowstone, and much of the Park land is above treeline and not habitable for elk (or wolves) a good portion of the year.

        I have not been able to locate Denver Post coverage, as you suggest, regarding recent wolf sightings or a change in the Park position. Can you direct me to them?

  17. Nancy Avatar

    ++We here in the area love it–would love to see the balance of nature for a change.++

    My thoughts to Linda 15 years ago when wolves were finding their place and establishing territories – outside of Yellowstone. Then all hell broke lose when wolves didn’t exactly conform to the expected norm.

    Wolves are still way down there on the list of actual livestock depredations and, reasons for livestock losses, but holding strong as #1, on the fear factor scale.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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