12 February 2015 | Center for Biological Diversity News Release
WASHINGTON— Legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today to strip federal protection from gray wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ended protections for gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in 2011 and in Wyoming in 2012. Federal judges overturned both decisions for failing to follow the best science and for prematurely turning management over to state fish and game agencies hostile to wolves. Today’s legislation would reverse these court orders, wiping out Endangered Species Act protection for the approximately 4,000 wolves that live in the four states.
“This is an ugly political ploy that will end with a lot of dead wolves and do serious damage to one of the most important endangered species success stories in America’s history,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The courts have repeatedly found that it’s too soon to remove federal protections for gray wolves but these politicians want to do it anyway. This bill will subject some of the last remaining wolves in the lower 48 to state-sanctioned hunting and trapping seasons designed to drastically reduce populations.”
Since gaining protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1976, gray wolves have made important progress toward recovery in the lower 48, with populations growing from fewer than 1,000 wolves to more than 5,000 today. With protections lifted, however, state hunts were starting to take a toll, with more than 1,623 wolves killed in the four states following removal of protection in 2011 and 2012, likely contributing to a 25 percent decline in Minnesota and a 9 percent decline in the northern Rockies. The court orders put an end to these disastrous hunts.
“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,” Hartl said.
Last year the Center released an analysis identifying more than 350,000 square miles of unoccupied wolf habitat, including in places like the southern Rockies, Adirondacks, Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. Rather than abandoning wolf recovery, the Center called on the Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the program to ensure these keystone predators successfully recover.
Today’s legislation is the latest in a long line of attacks on individual endangered species, which have increased substantially since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.
“This kind of meddling — where politicians ignore both science and law — is not only dangerous for wolves but for other wildlife that rely on the Endangered Species Act for their survival,” Hartl said. “Now no species is safe from cynical, politically expedient attacks. From the sage grouse to manatees and even the tiny American burying beetle, all species are on notice that they can be kicked off the ark at a moment’s notice for no reason other than being politically unpopular.”
In 2011 a policy rider on a key appropriations bill stripped Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Montana and Idaho. Very similar to the legislation introduced today, the rider negated a federal court decision overturning the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist gray wolves in those two states. The rider precluded the possibility of judicial review, making the delisting of wolves in Montana and Idaho virtually permanent. In the three years that followed, more than 1,956 wolves have been killed in the two states. The wolf rider has encouraged similar congressional attacks on other species.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
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