Saturday, February 14, 2015

Congress Takes Aim at Gray #Wolves

Two new bills would strip the predator of endangered species protections.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Gray wolf. (Photo: USFWS)
February 13, 2015
Emily Gertz is TakePart's associate editor for environment and wildlife.
When it comes to saving certain iconic endangered species, such as bald eagles, Americans embrace the effort wholeheartedly. There was resistance to ending the use of the pesticide DDT, the leading culprit in their decline, but it happened. Now bald eagles have recovered to the point that they’re off the federal list of endangered species. A pair is even nesting in New York City’s busy harbor.

Wolves are a different story. Although gray wolves are an equally potent symbol of freedom and nobility, American style, this week saw two efforts kick off in the House of Representatives to end endangered species protections for the species.

Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., on Thursday introduced legislation to force the United States Department of Interior to remove gray wolf populations in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan from the federal endangered species list. Three Democrats are among the bill’s 14 cosponsors.

Wolves are an immediate threat to “domestic animals, farm animals and, quite frankly, children,” Ribble said last month, according to E&E News.

Another Midwestern lawmaker, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., signed on to Ribble’s bill and introduced his own earlier in the week. Kline’s measure goes one step further by proposing to “prohibit treatment of gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan as endangered species.”

That phrasing seems calibrated to make Great Lakes gray wolves ineligible, forever, for protection under the nation’s key wildlife conservation law, as well as to end-run any court orders that might demand their protection.

Ribble’s measure, by contrast, would not stop conservationists from petitioning for wolves’ protection or federal conservation officials from returning the Great Lakes or Wyoming wolf populations to endangered status.

Similar legislation in 2011 forced the end of federal protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana, and the Center for Biological Diversity has stated that more than 1,956 wolves have been killed in the two states since.

Protecting a species under federal law is usually time-consuming and complicated. So Ribble’s measure, if passed, might still mean years of state management for these wolf populations, and that’s not a welcome prospect for the animals’ advocates. “This bill would turn over the keys to wolf recovery to four states that have made it clear they’re more interested in killing wolves than saving them,” Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

After protections for the Great Lakes and Wyoming wolves ended in 2011 and 2012, more than 1,600 animals were killed under state management plans, the center said, “likely contributing to a 25 percent decline in Minnesota and a 9 percent decline in the northern Rockies.”
Federal judges barred state-sanctioned hunts and restored federal endangered species protections to these wolf populations in 2014, in part because the decisions to end them had not been based on the best science.

The two new House bills take direct aim at those federal court decisions. “This bill is just the latest act of political bomb-throwing and gamesmanship,” Wayne Pacelle, head of The Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement, “and lawmakers who want balance on the wolf issue should reject it.”

source