PETERSBURG, Alaska — The federal government has agreed to decide in late 2015 whether a rare species of southeast Alaska wolves warrants protections as a species.
The federal government filed a settlement agreement Monday, saying it will complete a 12-month finding on the Alexander Archipelago wolf by the end of next year, KFSK (http://is.gd/VbfQN3) reported.
"At that time we will announce whether or not we believe that it is warranted to list Alexander Archipelago wolf as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act," said Andrea Medeiros, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.
The filing stems from a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and two other conservation groups earlier this year to force a decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service on whether the rare wolf should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Plaintiffs have said the government is long overdue on a listing decision.
The groups filed a petition in 2011 to list the wolf as endangered.
"When a petition is filed, there's supposed to be a preliminary 90-day finding, 90 days after the petition is filed," said Larry Edwards with Greenpeace, one of the plaintiffs. "And the final decision is supposed to come one year after that."
The Alexander Archipelago wolves are a subspecies of gray wolves that live in old-growth forest of southeast Alaska.
The conservation groups want greater protection for the wolves in the Tongass National Forest. They say the wolf numbers are shrinking, and the animals are vulnerable to hunting and trapping, as well as the loss of habitat from logging.
The U.S. Forest Service is planning additional timber sales on islands inhabited by the wolves. The groups want the Fish and Wildlife Service to make a decision before more habitat is lost.
The wolves den in the root systems of large trees and hunt Sitka black-tailed deer, which depend on high-quality, old forests. The wolves are genetically distinct from other wolves in the Tongass.
Information from: KFSK-FM, http://www.alaska.net/~kfsk/