Anti-wolf budget rider approved – A provision to strip federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies was approved by Congress last night as a part of a last-minute budget deal. Secretary Salazar now has 60 days to reinstate the same 2009 delisting rule that was struck down less than a year ago by a federal district court in Montana.
This unprecedented decision could spell disaster for continued wolf recovery and for the Endangered Species Act, and there’s plenty of blame to go around. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) were responsible for pushing the provision onto the budget bill while the rest of Congress, including some of our regular wildlife champions, played along. The Obama administration shares responsibility for allowing the wolf rider to remain a part of budget negotiations. And of course Secretary Salazar kept us on this path by pursuing a faulty delisting in the first place and then repeatedly throwing his support behind a legislative delisting when he should have been adhering to the scientific process laid out under the Endangered Species Act.
But what’s done is done. Western politicians insist that their states know how to manage wolves best, and here’s their chance to prove it. Now all eyes turn to the states, and Idaho and Montana in particular, that will resume wolf management in the coming months. We’ll need the help of our supporters more than ever to hold these states accountable for managing wolves responsibly and to let them know that America is watching.
Below is a list of coverage this week that included interviews with our experts:
“We may soon be witnessing the second large-scale extermination of wolves in the West.”
“There’s a legitimate threat that the states will take advantage of that flexibility and start reducing wolves down to unsustainable numbers.”
“We are, of course, extremely worried that this could represent some kind of a precedent, and the Endangered Species Act could face further onslaught in coming months and coming years.”
“Now, anytime anybody has an issue with an endangered species, they are going to run to Congress and try to get the same treatment the anti-wolf people have gotten.”
“It takes those minimum standards that we were opposing so strongly because they were not based on scientific research. And it basically allows the states to now kill all but a hundred to a hundred and fifty wolves in each of the states.”
“The real threat here is the states grinding down wolf populations in response to anti-wolf rhetoric over time,” Leahy said. “They can chip away at the population and manage them down to 100, 150 wolves if they want.”
“In all the decades of the Endangered Species Act,” Mr. Schlickeisen said, referring to the 1973 law, “Congress has never legislatively removed protections for any species. It’s bad to do it for the wolf, and it could set a very bad precedent, replacing scientific determinations with politics.”
On the bright side — Though the anti-wolf rider is a devastating blow for wolves and wildlife conservation in general, there has been an outpouring of support over the past week and some excellent news coverage.
Craig Miller in our Southwest office worked with staff at Mother Jones to put together this slideshow that highlight “10 Reasons We Need Wolves.” Cassandra Profita at Oregon Public Broadcasting also put together a Harper’s Index-style “Gray wolves: By the numbers” on her Ecotrope blog. And Heather Hansen debunks key myths about wolves on The Range blog for High Country News with “Who’s Afraid of the big, bad wolf?”