EPIC to Protect Wolves in Court

April, 2017

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Big Beef Files Lawsuit to Hunt Wolves; EPIC Stands in Their Way

EPIC, together with the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Cascadia Wildlands, and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Big Beef—the California Cattlemen’s Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation—that seeks to remove state protections for the gray wolf under the California Endangered Species Act. As intervenors in the lawsuit, EPIC would represent the majority of Californians who are excited about the wolves’ return. The intervenors are represented by Greg Loarie of Earthjustice.

Wolves were extirpated from the state because of overhunting, with the last recorded wolf killed by a trapper in 1924. Wolves have begun to return to California from Oregon wolf packs. In 2011, wolf OR-7 became the first wolf to return to the Golden State, venturing over a thousand miles from his home pack to Northern California. Though OR-7 returned to Oregon in 2014, other wolves soon returned to California. In 2015, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced California’s first wolf pack, the Shasta Pack, totaling seven individuals. In 2016, two more wolves, including a descendant of OR-7, were spotted in Lassen County. An additional radio-collared wolf from Oregon has crossed in and out of California several times since late 2015.

The California Fish and Game Commission moved to list the gray wolf under the California Endangered Species Act in 2014, forty years after the federal government protected the wolf under the federal Endangered Species Act. The number one threat to wolves in California is humans. The California Endangered Species Act prohibits the killing, or “taking,” of wolves, a necessary measure to prevent the hunting of wolves as they struggle to reestablish a sustainable population in the state.

The industry challenge to the wolf’s protection is part of a larger effort to remove protections from wolves across the country, with multiple lawsuits challenging federal wolf protections under the Endangered Species Act. Big Beef is represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation. The Pacific Legal Foundation—funded in large part by the Koch brothers and a shadowy network of conservative donors—was formed to destruct environmental laws.

EPIC has been hard at work to protect the wolves, putting hundreds of hours in as a stakeholder in developing the California Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves in California, a product of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Plan recommends revisiting wolf protections when statewide population tops 75, although California could likely support more than 200 wild wolves. Today, there are only nine. Big Beef’s lawsuit could not come at a worse time. Restoring wolves to California requires supporting these early pioneers in the Golden State. Against Big Beef’s wishes, the Plan emphasizes the need to utilize nonlethal methods to deter livestock interactions.

Wolves play an important role in our ecosystems. As one of nature’s top predators, wolves keep other mammal populations  in check. This includes keeping prey populations more healthy and vigorous by preying on the most vulnerable (the old, sick, injured or young). Where wolves have returned, researchers have documented a trophic cascade of benefits—a series of direct and indirect effects on various levels of an ecosystem.

EPIC is committed to putting out the welcome mat for the wolf by providing sound legal protections as it makes its way back home.

For more info visit www.wildcalifornia.org.

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