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For Immediate Release, August 10, 2011

Contact:  Rebecca Noblin, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 274-1110
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557

Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Rare Alaskan Wolf

Alexander Archipelago Wolf Threatened by Unsustainable Logging in Alaska's Tongass National Forest

SITKA, Alaska— The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to give Endangered Species Act protection to the Alexander Archipelago wolf, a rare subspecies of gray wolf found only in the old-growth forests of Southeast Alaska. The groups’ 103-page petition is a detailed review of the science and status of this imperiled species. It exposes a number of threats to Alexander Archipelago wolves, including the U.S. Forest Service’s unsustainable logging and road-building practices in the Tongass National Forest.

“This unique wolf is a symbol of America's rapidly dwindling wilderness” said Greenpeace forest campaigner Larry Edwards. “We've got clear evidence that the Alexander Archipelago wolf is in trouble. This wonderful creature is a key part of Alaska's natural environment and it deserves official protection.”

Heavily reliant on old-growth forests, the Alexander Archipelago wolf dens in the root systems of very large trees and primarily hunts Sitka black-tailed deer, which are dependent on high-quality, old-growth forests of the region, in particular for winter survival. A long history of unsustainable clearcut logging on the Tongass National Forest and private and state-owned lands has devastated much of the wolf’s old-growth habitat on the islands of Southeast Alaska. The ongoing scale of old-growth logging imperils the wolf by further reducing and fragmenting the remaining forest stands, to the detriment of the wolf and its deer prey.

Logging operations on the Tongass also result in more road-building, which makes wolves vulnerable to hunting and trapping. As many as half the wolves killed on the Tongass are killed illegally, and hunting and trapping are occurring at unsustainable levels in many parts of the region. Despite scientific evidence showing that Alexander Archipelago wolf populations cannot survive in areas with high road density, the Forest Service continues to build new logging roads in the Tongass National Forest. Road density is especially a concern on heavily fragmented Prince of Wales Island and neighboring islands, home to an important population of Alexander Archipelago wolves.

“We already know what it will take to save Alexander Archipelago wolves: It’s a simple matter of not building new logging roads in areas where wolves are already getting hammered and of ending unsustainable logging practices,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, the Forest Service seems more interested in kowtowing to the timber industry than in preserving our forests for future generations.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service considered listing the wolf in the mid-1990s. The agency chose not to do so, based on new standards for protecting the wolf that the Forest Service included in its 1997 Tongass Forest Plan. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has not held up its end of the bargain and has not adequately implemented these standards.

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