A Mexican gray wolf at a holding pen in New Mexico.

A Mexican gray wolf runs inside a holding pen at the Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / June 10, 2009)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday took the unusual step of suspending the scientific peer review of its proposal to remove wolves from the endangered species list, saying the process did not meet the agency’s standards.

The problem arose when the service reviewed the list of scientists proposed by a contractor and was able to determine who the experts were by looking at their resumes, even though the names were redacted.

The intent of the independent review process is for specialists to remain anonymous to the agency, according to Gavin Shire, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman.

The peer review of the delisting proposal has been put on hold for an indefinite time, Shire said, adding that he was unsure how or if the delay would affect the delisting timeline.

Last week the peer review process came under fire when the Fish and Wildlife Service sent an email to the outside contractor it had hired to conduct the review, asking if three scientists who signed on to a May letter objecting to the delisting proposal were sufficiently impartial to sit on the review panel.

The three wolf experts were removed.

Shire said the “optics of the situation” require the service to proceed carefully. “The result of this process led to some of the  potential selectees feeling that they have been excluded from the process.”

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