On April 13, the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs formally submitted a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding the Red Wolf Recovery Program in North Carolina.
Established in North Carolina in 1987, the Red Wolf Recovery Program is a reintroduction program for red wolves that are designated as an “experimental, non-essential population” – officially known as 10(j) – under the Endangered Species Act. The federal program is concentrated in Northeastern North Carolina around the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, two additional National Wildlife Refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands, and private property, which spans a total of 1.7 million acres.
In the last two years, the program has come under increased scrutiny from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) and private landowners ultimately resulting in a Comprehensive Review and Evaluation of the Red Wolf Recovery Program by the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI).
The Caucus letter is the latest in an issue that began with a federal court order in response to a lawsuit filed December 2013 against the WRC. The order asked for a temporary injunction against all coyote hunting practices allowed by the WRC in the five counties encompassing the red wolf recovery area, due to the potential of incidental take of red wolves.
Using the WMI review, the Sportsmen’s Caucus Chairs expressed concerns to the USFWS regarding the sustainability of the Program:
“The report unequivocally finds that the FWS has failed to adhere to clear goals outlined in the initial Red Wolf Recovery Plan released 28 years ago. Specifically, the report states that the explicit, and crucial, goals of managing red wolves on federal lands only and relocating red wolves that have migrated to private lands back to federal lands at the request of private landowners have been ignored by the FWS…These finding represent egregious mismanagement of a federal program that, over time, has been detrimental to local landowners and state wildlife management objectives. It is with these considerations in mind that we write to join the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the North Carolina Farm Bureau, as well as hundreds of private landowners in the recovery area, in asking for the discontinuation of the Red Wolf Recover Program in North Carolina.”
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?