Posted: 19 Oct 2011
Attacks on endangered species lurking around the cornerA (seemingly) modest proposal
Late Friday, the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee released a draft of their 2012 funding proposal for federal programs that provide clean air and water and protect endangered species. Missing from the proposal are the pernicious anti-wildlife provisions attached to the companion bill already approved by the House this past summer.
If only it would stay that way.
Unfortunately, subcommittee chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are signaling that the proposal is merely a starting point for what are likely to become some very nasty negotiations. In fact, the funding bill may never come up for a vote for fear that members on both sides of the aisle will try to tack on amendments and exceptions to flout environmental laws for short-term political gain. (read more on E&E News, subscription only).
But avoiding public debate over the controversial anti-environmental provisions won’t be enough to keep opponents at bay. Several senators are already advancing legislation to rollback protections for particular animals in particular areas (e.g., grizzlies in Idaho, prairie dogs in Utah). And any bill that clears the Senate will need to be reconciled with the House version, which has more anti-ESA riders attached to it than any other appropriations bill in recent history.
As we documented in our comprehensive report on more than a dozen attacks on endangered species protections, some members of Congress have not been shy about doing the bidding of their corporate backers. A small handful of the most adamant anti-wildlife legislators have taken a combined total of nearly $6 million from the oil and gas and agribusiness industries. In exchange, these politicians are peddling provisions that would prohibit protections for animals on the brink of extinction, make it easier to poison our waterways with toxic pesticides, and reverse decades of work to restore imperiled wolves.
Anti-ESA hearing shows Congress’s true colors
The assault on America’s native wildlife and natural resources is far from over. Just last week, the House science oversight subcommittee held a hearing titled, “The Endangered Species Act: Reviewing the Nexus of Science and Policy.” The committee invited a series of experts to testify about the Act, most of whom used the opportunity to criticize our nation’s pre-eminent wildlife conservation law for being ineffective or inimical to economic development and private property rights.
What these supposed experts failed to mention is that the Endangered Species Act has successfully saved 99 percent of protected species from disappearing. Only about 10 species have gone extinct in the United States out of nearly 2,000 since the Act went into effect in 1973, and many of those species were already well beyond the point of no return.
In less than four decades, the Endangered Species Act has halted the decline and even restored hundreds of species, including iconic American animals like the bald eagle, grizzly bear and gray wolf. Amazingly, it has done so while the United States added about 100 million people to its roll call and created the highest standard of living in human history.
A fight we cannot lose
Preventing plants and animals from going extinct is a daunting challenge and the stakes are high. The world’s top biologists estimate that we are currently losing species 10,000 times faster than the normal rate. Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson has predicted that half of all species worldwide will go extinct in the next century at the current rate.
With that incredible loss of biodiversity as the backdrop, we should be doing everything in our power to protect all forms of life on the planet, beginning with the ones right here in our backyard. Slashing funding for wildlife and making it easier for businesses to bulldoze prime wildlife habitat is clearly a step in the wrong direction.
In the coming weeks and months, Defenders will be confronting Congress with a simple message: the fight to protect America’s endangered species is one we simply cannot afford to lose. We will need the help of all wildlife supporters to make sure our elected representatives hear us loud and clear.
Up Close: Wolf Watching Leaves A Lasting Impression
Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:30 AM PDT
Wolf Awareness Week this year, Defenders has invited guest bloggers to offer their perspectives on the importance of wolf conservation. Dave Hornoff is co-president of National Wolfwatcher CoalitionFor
Looking BackA few years back when I thought my passion for wolves couldn’t be any greater, I went to Yellowstone National Park and have been a frequent wolf watcher there ever since. Wolves in Yellowstone serve as wild ambassadors to wolves all over the world; the park is an international showcase for wolf watching, that’s for sure.
My favorite time spent there was probably in February of 2009, and I say that knowing that each and every trip is special. Yet that one trip was truly unforgettable. I had signed up on a trip with Nathan Varley, a wolf tour operator in Yellowstone, and we were to stay at the Buffalo Ranch in Lamar Valley. I arrived a few days early and was soon very happy that I did.
At Lamar Canyon, I spotted two of the last members of the Druid Peak pack–691F and her sister White Line. Within seconds the two scattered as a large female wolf known as 06 bounded onto the scene along with two young black wolves,755M and 754M, that are brothers. Amazingly I watched them as 755M and 06 joined in a tie, the canine mating process, that would eventually produce their first litter to the pack now known as the Lamar Canyon Pack. I suggested to Nathan the name for the budding wolf pack with 06 as the leader, and he thought it was a good idea. So with Nathan’s help, I can proudly take some credit for naming this wolf pack of Yellowstone.
That week I also watched 06 take down bull elk totally on her own. She is the most amazing wolf I have ever watched to this day, and a big reason why I return so often. Spending the -25 degree nights at the Buffalo Ranch that week did nothing but fuel my passion for wolves more than ever.
Looking AheadI was also in Yellowstone to watch the Cottonwood Pack that year prior to the 2009 wolf hunt in which the pack was targeted as they roamed outside park boundaries. That was a very difficult time and the hunt was eventually stopped early. Now, we find the wolf hunt has resumed in the Northern Rockies and it presents us with a difficult challenge once again as 642F from Yellowstone is among the hunting statistics.
I support species being removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act, but with wolves being the only species to be delisted by Congress, it seems to me that we need to pay more attention to sound science than bad politics when talking about wolves.
These wolves are so very valuable to the economy, as a study has shown that wolves alone are responsible for 35 million in revenue annually and nearly double that once the money filters through the local economy. Every dollar spent on wolf watching is a vote to support the conservation of wolves that should not be discounted by our policy makers.
I believe that with Defenders’ programs to promote nonlethal measures to reduce conflict, along with furthering education throughout the country, people and wolves can coexist peacefully. There is a place for all species on this planet, and we as humans need to become more involved and take responsibility for our future, as well as the future of our wildlife and its habitat.
In part, thanks to my Yellowstone experiences, I am now more involved than ever as the Co-President of National Wolfwatcher Coalition, (www.wolfwatcher.org) a non-profit organization made up of many dedicated people across the country. We work closely with Defenders of Wildlife and other groups promoting education and activism, and our primary interest is that of wolves throughout the country.
So look for me in Yellowstone. I love watching wolves from dusk to dawn, and your company is most welcome. I believe in these three words: understand, love, protect.