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47 Envtl. L. Rep. News & Analysis 10615 (2017)
Hybridizing Law: A Policy for Hybridization under the Endangered Species Act

handle is hein.journals/elrna47 and id is 645 raw text is: 









  Hybridizing Law:

         A Policy for

       Hybridization

            Under the

         Endangered

         Species Act



               by John A. Erwin


  John (Alex) Erwin is completing both a J.D. at the James E.
Rogers College of Law and a Ph.D. from the Genetics Graduate
   Interdisciplinary Department at the University of Arizona.


                      Summary
For centuries, hybridization was a poorly understood
process thought to be a threat to endangered species.
With the advent of genomic technologies, those views
are starting to change; hybridization is now recog-
nized as vital for the formation and continued persis-
tence of many species. However, our current system of
protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
fails to take many of the modern nuances of evolu-
tionary biology into consideration. Despite calls for
an explicit hybrid policy since the early 1990s, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine
Fisheries Service have instead chosen to apply a case-
by-case approach with no guidance or overarching
policy. With the new technologies, many species we
are currently protecting could technically be unsuit-
able for protection based on a rigid interpretation of
the ESA. A defined hybrid policy must be adopted,
taking into consideration the twin aims of protecting
genetic lineages and protecting ecosystems.


{   Pjl    his animal is not an endangered species. This
           animal is a hybrid and should be delisted
    .1. immediately.1 They absolutely invented a
species and called it endangered.'2 These were just a couple
of the plethora of rebukes directed at the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (FWS) condemning the continued pro-
tection of the red wolf (Canis lupus) in light of recent find-
ings. For decades, the taxonomic status of red wolves has
been up in the air: is it a distinct species, a subspecies of
gray wolves or coyotes, a recent hybrid population between
gray wolves or coyotes, or some mix of all of these dif-
ferent hypotheses?3 A 2016 genomic study seems to have
answered this question once and for all: the red wolf is a
population of hybrids formed, primarily since the 1800s,
from gray wolves and coyotes.4
   The red wolf has been one of the flagship species for
protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), yet,
as the aforementioned quotes hint, under the current
implementation of the ESA, hybrids are not afforded pro-
tection. Is this just a case of well-intentioned biologists
going back several decades, trying to bring back a species
they believed existed,' suggesting the red wolf does not
deserve continued protected status? Or, in spite of their
hybrid status, does there exist significant biological jus-
tification to continue protecting red wolves, and other
hybrids? These are the questions our policymakers and
wildlife managers are forced to answer, despite a decided
lack of legal guidance.
   When the Human Genome Project was completed in
2003, few could imagine the widespread proliferation of
these sequencing technologies just a decade later.6 That
first genome cost $2.7 billion dollars and nearly 15 years
to complete; today, a genome can be sequenced for under
$2,000 in days to weeks.7 These drastic reductions in cost
have driven all the major fields in biology to new heights,
perhaps none more so than wildlife conservation.' Conser-
vation genetics traditionally utilized just a few genes, yet,

1.  Quote from Gary Mowad, a former Deputy Chief of Law Enforcement for
    the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), found in William LaJeunesse,
    Feds Mull Whether to Remove Red Wolf'From Endangered Species List, Fox
    NEWS, Sept. 22, 2016, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/09/22/feds-mull-
    whether-to-remove-red-wolf-from-endangered-species-list.html.
2.  Quote from Scott Griffin from the group Citizens Science, found in
    LaJeunesse, supra note 1.
3. Steven M. Chambers et al., An Account of the Taxonomy of North American
    Wolves From Morphological and Genetic Analyses, 77 N. AM. FAUNA 1 (2012).
4. Bridgett M. vonHoldt et al., Whole-Genome Sequence Analysis Shows 7hat
    Two Endemic Species ofNorth American WolfAre Admixtures of the Coyote and
    Gray Wolf 2 Sci. ADVANCES e1501714 (2016).
5.  Quote from Gary Mowad, found in LaJeunesse, supra note 1.
6. National Human Genome Research Institute, 7he Cost of Sequencing a
    Human Genome, https://www.genome.gov/sequencingcosts/ (last updated
    July 6, 2016).
7. Id.
8. Fred Allendorf et al., Genomics and the Future of Conservation Genetics, 11
    NATURE REVS. GENETICS 697 (2010).


NEWS & ANALYSIS


7-2017


47 ELR 10615

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