02/10/2014 09:29 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Independent Peer Review Panel Rejects Science Behind Secretary Jewell's Proposal to Delist Wolves


The Endangered Species Coalition and many other organizations in the conservation community have long contended that Secretary Jewell's proposal to kick wolves off the Endangered Species List is unscientific and deeply flawed. It is a plan based on political science in place of sound conservation science -- as is called for by the Endangered Species Act.

Now, a peer review committee commissioned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has concurred in determining that science does not support the plan. In their words, "There was unanimity among the panel that the rule does not currently represent the 'best available science".

Secretary Jewell must immediately withdraw this proposal.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's plan calls for the removal of Endangered Species Act protections from practically all wolves across the lower 48 states. There would be an exception made for the exceedingly endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. Wolves in California, Colorado, the Northeast, and states elsewhere that have seen wolves desperately trying to expand, would lose all Endangered Species Act protections.

In making FWS conducted a "peer review", bringing in scientists from outside the government to review the proposal. Alarmingly, the FWS initially attempted to control the selection of scientists to serve on that review committee by excluding three scientists they feared would oppose their plan.

Following discovery of that attempt at tipping the scales in their favor, the FWS assembled a second peer review committee. This panel concluded that the plan is not supported by the science used to support it.

When confronted about the highly controversial plan to delist wolves, Secretary Jewell has contended that she has no choice in the matter. Her hands are tied, she says, by science. Here she is at an event discussing the future of conservation and the outdoors replying to a question from a young person about wolves:

She says, "(The removal of Endangered Species Act protections) is not something I actually have a choice (sic). It's about science and you do what the science says."

We now know what the science says. Even before the peer review panel rejected her plan, 16 scientists with expertise in this field signed a letter opposing it. More than 200 business leaders spoke out against it. Nearly 90 members of the U.S. House sent a letter to Secretary Jewell asking her to withdraw it.

All told, more than one million people have spoken out against this flawed proposal in person and online. No endangered species listing decision in history has generated this much opposition.

The fact of the matter is that Americans value -- and have a made significant investment in -- the restoration of wolves. We also know that there is suitable habitat across the country, awaiting the return of this top carnivore.

Now presented with what science says, Secretary Jewell must hold true to her pledge. She needs to "do what the science says" and cancel this premature delisting, and finish the job of wolf recovery.