WOLVES CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE, ONCE AGAIN
U.S. Congress has never before ousted an animal or plant from Endangered Species Act protections — until now. In August, a federal district court ruled to NOT delist Western gray wolves. The case is still open on appeal. Yet Congress ignored separation of powers (between judicial and legislative branches) by taking matters into their own hands. A rider attached to the recently passed spending bill delists wolves, thereby deleting their federal safety net.
This political maneuver is unconstitutional and leaves wolves in the crossfire of state-sponsored killing. Idaho already conducted a hunt by helicopter in which wolves are cornered and shot at point blank range. Last year, pups and mothers were gassed inside their dens.
This establishes an irresponsible precedent not only for wolves, but also for any imperiled species that doesn’t serve Congressional interests. I am troubled that legislators, with President Obama’s approval, ignored Endangered Species Act protocol for defining recovery and delisting. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has now deleted Endangered Species Act safeguards for gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon, Washington, and northern Utah. Wyoming wolves lose protection once a state wolf management plan is approved.
Clearly, this violates division of powers between judicial and legislative branches, as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. In August 2010 U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula, MT struck down delisting of Greater Yellowstone and Northern Rockies wolves because it did not encompass all populations. In effect, USFW could not retain protections for Wyoming’s endangered wolves, but strip them everywhere else. Though the case is still open on appeal, Congress engineered its own outcome: No federal safety net for Western gray wolves.
With state officials now at the helm, scheduled hunts and aerial gunning further threaten wolf recovery. I urge governors and state agencies to adopt enduring strategies that focus on cohabitation. I also ask you to abandon shamefully violent tactics such as gunning down wolf packs from helicopters; gassing pups and mothers inside dens; and more lethal means.
The court’s decision to overrule gray wolf delisting should have prompted a more scientific approach. Instead Idaho officials, working with the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Wildlife Services, recently spent a lot of money on shooting wolves from the sky to synthetically boost game populations for hunters. Please shift public funds to a nonlethal approach for the preemptive reduction of wildlife conflicts, including livestock loss.
Currently, there is no definitive conclusion on the "right number" of wolves to constitute recovery. Therefore, more input is needed from wildlife biologists and environmental scientists (from both private and government sectors).
Long-term preservation of ecosystems is more important than political maneuvers. I support lawsuits filed by conservation groups in federal district court. They may be the last hope for Western gray wolves.