Political shots fired as American lawmakers renew war on wolves

By on January 19, 2017 with 10 Comments

Just days after the newly constituted Congress commenced its work in the new year, some legislators from the West and the Great Lakes region showed that they have their fangs out for wolves and other animals. They are threatening not just to enable a massive kill of the ecologically and economically beneficial native carnivores, but also to open the floodgates for a host of bills and riders to target other endangered species in the crosshairs of special interests. These legislators have introduced two bills, H.R. 424 and S. 164, dubbed the “War on Wolves Act,” designed to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the northern Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and to prevent federal courts from intervening to ensure wolf management is consistent with principles of sound conservation science. They will almost certainly deliver on that promise if Congress passes them and President Donald Trump signs a final bill.

The War on Wolves Act strips the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of its management authority over wolves and hands it off to state agencies whose past actions have shown a bias toward the bloodthirsty. These agencies have treated non-lethal co-existence measures as a sort of management oddity rather than the core of a sound strategy that balances the needs of wolves with the interests of wolf-country residents.

Lawmakers, quick to cater to the vocal minority that wants to hunt and trap wolves, are ignoring the best available science, which reveals that these apex carnivores occupy just a fraction of their original range and number only 5,000 across the entire lower 48 states. That science also shows that random killing of wolves – by trophy hunters and trappers – may actually lead to conflicts between wolves and livestock by disrupting and dispersing stable packs.

When the federal government delisted wolves in 2012 — and before federal lawsuits from The HSUS restored protections — trophy hunters and trappers, along with other causes of mortality, killed nearly a quarter of Minnesota’s wolves. Humans killed nearly one in every five wolves in Wisconsin that same year, including 17 entire family units, and half of the wolves killed in that state’s first season were pups. Michigan also conducted an ill-advised hunt, over the objections of the state’s own voters, in areas where common-sense measures would have prevented the few conflicts that had occurred with livestock and hunting dogs. In fact, between 2012 and 2014, 500 wolves had been killed in the Great Lakes states alone. Wyoming declared that over 80 percent of the state was a wolf “predator zone” — meaning that trophy hunters, trappers, and wildlife services agents had no restrictions on the manner of take, season for the killing, or even the age of pups or yearling animals. That policy is a prescription for local extinction.

This is not a sensible or conservation-minded plan and most definitely not a humane one – it is an all-out, barbaric assault on the forebears of the domesticated dog.

In 2014, two separate federal court decisions returned wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming to protections afforded to them under the ESA. Because of this, the sponsors of the War on Wolves Act included an insidious provision that would prevent citizens from challenging wolf protections through the courts, removing judicial review and putting Congress squarely in charge of making a listing decision. As the Chicago Tribune pointedly remarked when this same attempt was made in 2016: “The only reason to bar court challenges, of course, is to avoid having the legal weakness of your case exposed.”

A study last year showed that most Americans hold positive or even “very positive” associations with wolves. A 2014 statewide survey of nearly 9,000 Wisconsin residents showed most residents believe that wolves are important members of the ecological community who keep deer in balance and should be enjoyed by future generations. Wisconsinites surveyed said they were proud they were “one of the few places in the United States with wolves” and most did not want to see their wolves hunted or trapped.

Upon their reintroduction to Yellowstone, wolves moderated elk from congregating and stripping away vegetation from life-bearing riparian areas. These effects are documented in a popular video called “How Wolves Change Rivers,” based on a lecture by journalist and environmental advocate George Monbiot. The video has attracted more than 31 million views on YouTube. Wolves are also an enormous draw in the Upper Great Lakes, generating millions in commerce, while providing ecological benefits that are incalculable.

If Democrats in Congress, such as Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Amy Klobuchar, continue to align with Republicans on this issue, they will not only destroy wolf families and produce enormous pain and suffering for individual wolves, but they will also cripple defensive efforts to protect other endangered species targeted by special interests who want to remove federal protections for them. This is dangerous stuff, at a time when the ESA is likely to face its most serious and sustained assault ever because of Republican majorities in both chambers and now with Trump in the White House.

Democrats should come to their senses, embrace active management of the occasional problem wolf, and defend both the decisions by scientists and judges to honor the provisions of the ESA. If they do not, we’ll see an emptying of the ark in the United States in this Congress, starting with wolves. We need to send a signal that the American public won’t go for this species-by-species gutting of our nation’s most important wildlife protection law.

Categories
Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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10 Comments

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  1. Robynne Catheron says:

    I’ve shared that video many times. Unfortunately, you can’t force people to watch it, or even open their minds to alternatives, especially the stubborn ones.

  2. Fran Leard says:

    What right do they have to eliminate our wildlife and other animals who were put on this earth for God’s purpose? This cowardly madness must be stopped once and for all no matter what it takes.

  3. Joy Louters says:

    I am sickened by these new developments on wolves, one of the wild’s most beautiful creatures. It seems the the trophy hunters and cattle ranchers won’t be happy until a complete holocaust of these magnificent creatures is behind them.

    Wayne, thank you for your blogs. It arms with the true facts when I get into a debate with someone about what wolves are and what they are not. Anyone who would kill a baby animal of any kind should be put in prison and I mean that! That goes for all baby animals. How many people know that veal is a baby calf? You would be blown away by those who have no idea. And, I cringe when someone boasts that a product is made of lambskin! They can’t even let these babies grow up before they ruthlessly kill them.

    Wayne, what can we do to make sure this bill doesn’t become law?

  4. Alex Krevitz says:

    Oh think our only option is boycotting states with anti wolf policies.
    Hitting the bottom line will engage the attention of even those residents who don’t care about wolves
    These tactics were previously successful.
    ALex Krevitz

  5. Tally Valladares says:

    This is a DISTURBING thought, to just allow animal genocide of any kind, especially a creature as beautiful as the wolf. How can we stop this? Who do we need to write and address about this issue? Are there any petitions already in effect to stop this act from being passed??

    • Stephanie Gutierrez says:

      Good Question! You can Google your congressman and get their contact information that way, usually once you find their contact info you can send an email to them or make a phone call to their office, you can also call the Whitehouse directly!

  6. Joan Campbell says:

    This is terrible and I think it’s all about the ranchers wanting more grazing land for there cattle just pure greed wolves are part of all of our lives and a important ther d has got to be something we can do to stop this

  7. Ernest Near says:

    Any administration that will allow the slaughter and killing of wildlife. Should not be running A country. Pure Evil at it’s best.

  8. Stephanie Gutierrez says:

    This is terrible, but they are not stopping with just the wolves in the midwest, Republicans recently introduced, and passed a bill in the house, attacking Alaskan wildlife. The bill would allow hunters to hunt mother’s with young, hibernating animals, animals in their dens, and to stalk and hunt wildlife by aircraft. I will look up the legislation number so you call see it. We have to fight. Please call your senators and Washington, we can still block this from being passed in the Senate, we just have to get enough people to stand up and fight it!

  9. Judith Miller Walsh says:

    Everyone who is concerned about Wolves and TRULY want Wolves protected (because there are a lot of “just Talkers” out there), better get your pen and paper out and start writing your Representatives! Write all the members of the Natural resource committee! Write the co-sponsors of this bill and tell them they need to get their act together for their state and for the the majority of people that are against wolf trophy hunting and think about the economy of their states. Let them know that supporting Special Interest groups for their own gain is despicable!
    Members are from Minnesota, Michigan, Wyoming, Wisconsin both Republicans and Democrats. In fact it is a Democrat from Minnesota that introduced this bill to the House.Here are their names:
    Rep. Duffy, Sean P. [R-WI-7]
    Rep. Cheney, Liz [R-WY-At Large]*
    Rep. Nolan, Richard M. [D-MN-8]*
    Rep. Emmer, Tom [R-MN-6]*
    Rep. Labrador, Raul R. [R-ID-1]*
    Rep. Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. [R-WI-5]*
    Rep. Simpson, Michael K. [R-ID-2]*
    Rep. Huizenga, Bill [R-MI-2]*
    Rep. Gallagher, Mike [R-WI-8]*
    Rep. Kind, Ron [D-WI-3]*
    Rep. Moolenaar, John R. [R-MI-4]*
    Rep. Walberg, Tim [R-MI-7]*
    Rep. Grothman, Glenn [R-WI-6]*
    Rep. Bergman, Jack [R-MI-1]*
    Rep. Upton, Fred [R-MI-6]

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