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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Who's Afraid of Big, Bad Policy? War on Wolves Wages On

Some anti-wolf politicians in Congress are once again pushing to force the removal of wolves from the Endangered Species Act and to block wildlife biologists, the courts, and so many members of the public from having anything to say about it.  It’s the worst kind of back-room deal-making, and we need your help now to stop it.


Both the House and Senate versions of the Interior appropriations bill include noxious provisions to completely strip wolves of their Endangered Species Act protections in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

They would hand over wolf management to hostile states in which more than 1,700 wolves have been killed in the last few years with the aid of leghold traps, snares, packs of hounds, bait site, clubs, and firearms.

These politicians talk a good game about scientific wildlife management, except when they don’t like a certain species and want politics to trump science.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already has the tools to delist or downlist wolves, and the public and the courts have an opportunity to examine and weigh in on those proposals.

If members of Congress can dictate wolf management by legislative fiat, it punches a hole in the Endangered Species Act and opens the door for any politician or special interest group to do the same for a species they don’t like.

Fortunately, many lawmakers are speaking out and injecting some common-sense into the wolf debate.

“This rider is a tremendous overreach that would interfere in the federal listing of endangered species,” said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., the ranking member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. “Our committee’s role is to appropriate the necessary funds to allow the expert staff of scientists and professionals to do their jobs working to protect endangered species. This bill should not be mandating which species do or do not require protection.”

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., the ranking member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, also panned the “new language that overrides court rulings requiring that specific populations of gray wolves must maintain protections under the Endangered Species Act.  This provision circumvents the scientific and legal process established to protect imperiled species.”

Eighty members of Congress have written to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging them to adopt a compromise position: a petition filed by The HSUS and dozens of other conservation and wolf protection groups to list the wolves as threatened in the lower 48 states.

That policy would likely prevent any sport hunting or commercial trapping of wolves, while allowing state agencies to selectively remove wolves in the rare circumstance that they pose a threat to farm animals or human safety. This is the current policy in Minnesota, and it gives farmers and government officials more tools than they have now in Michigan, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and other wolf range states.

Lawmakers should look for practical solutions to problems and find a reasonable pathway forward to settle contentious policy issues when possible.

This proposal does just that, and it balances federal oversight and protections for wolves with more flexibility to manage wolf conflicts, including the depredation of livestock. A threatened listing would allow more management without ceding control entirely to state agencies that have consistently demonstrated an overreaching and cruel hand in dealing with wolves.

In a broader sense, it’s clear that wolves provide an enormous economic and ecological benefit. People will trek to wolf-inhabited forests precisely because they are there, boosting tourism-related commerce. 

Wolves also limit deer and moose populations, depressing crop depredation and shrinking the number of collisions between these animals and cars. Through their killing of the weak, sick, and older deer and moose, beavers, and other animals, they have a broad, balancing, and beneficial impact on ecosystems.

Please contact your members of Congress, and tell them to keep their paws of the Endangered Species Act. Ask them to oppose wolf delisting and other dangerous anti-wildlife riders.

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