Agency to review Alexander Archipelago wolves

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A subspecies of gray wolf found on Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island will be considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Environmental groups announced Friday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had granted their request for an in-depth status review of Alexander Archipelago wolves, which live on Prince of Wales Island near the tip of Alaska’s Panhandle.

Rebecca Noblin, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, called Alexander Archipelago wolves one of Alaska’s most fascinating species. The wolves establish dens in the root systems of large trees and hunt Sitka black-tailed deer, which depend on high-quality, old forests.

Clear-cut logging in the Tongass National Forest and on state and private lands has devastated wolf habitat on southeast Alaska islands, Noblin said in the organization’s announcement.

“The Endangered Species Act is the strongest law in the world for protecting wildlife, and it can save these beautiful wolves from reckless logging and hunting,” she said.

A listing could affect future logging sales. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Friday she was disappointed by the agency’s decision.

“This decision will further lock up southeast Alaska and restrict economic development,” she said in a prepared statement.

Publication Monday of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision will open a 60-day comment period, Murkowski said.

The wolves are genetically distinct from other wolves in the Tongass. The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace filed a petition to protect them in August 2011.

The groups in November said large-scale logging poses a threat because it fragments low-elevation forests and reduces the forests’ ability to serve as a habitat for Sitka black-tailed deer. Roads that accompany logging lead to unsustainable legal and illegal hunting and trapping, the groups said.

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