By Ann McCreary

As a result of delays caused by the recent federal government shutdown, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has extended the public comment period on its proposal to remove nearly all gray wolves in the nation from the endangered species list.

The public will have until Dec. 17 to submit comments on two proposed rules. One rule would list the Mexican wolf in the Southwest as an endangered subspecies, the other rule would remove wolves from federal protection in all other parts of the country, including Washington state.

Public hearings on the proposed changes will take place Nov. 19 in Denver, Colo., Nov. 20 in Albuquerque, N.M., and Nov. 22 in Sacramento, Calif. FWS has also added a public information meeting and hearing in Pinetop, Ariz., on Dec. 3. Each meeting will include a short informational presentation.

The proposal to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list affects wolves in Washington because, if enacted, it would remove federal protections for wolves in the western two-thirds of the state, where they are currently listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Wolves are currently protected as endangered under state law throughout Washington.

The Pacific Wolf Coalition, representing 34 conservation organizations, has called on FWS to schedule more public hearings on the proposal, including hearings on the West Coast.

“Of course, we would also like to see the [Fish and Wildlife] service honor the request made by thousands of people that additional hearings be scheduled for Seattle, Portland, Ashland, Ore., and Los Angeles so that state residents can more easily attend and testify,” said Amaroq Weiss, a west coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Given the broad support for protecting wolves and expanding their territory here on the West Coast, it’s great news the federal hearings have been rescheduled and the public comment deadline extended,” she said. “And the message from our top scientists and a majority of citizens will be loud and clear: It’s far too early to drop wolf protections.”

To learn more about the proposed rules, view the draft Federal Register notice with the details of the public hearings, and for links to submit comments to the public record, visit www.fws.gov/ home/wolfrecovery.