Congressional Spending Bill Contains Trove of Anti-Elephant, Anti-Wolf, and Other Anti-Animal Riders
It’s hard to know where to begin in dissecting, and panning, the Interior Department spending bill released yesterday by a House appropriations subcommittee – a truly awful jumble of the worst anti-animal riders that any small group of lawmakers could assemble in one legislative package. The good news is that the bill still has a long journey before it can be enacted, and it can be stripped of many of these odious provisions at multiple points in the process. And if these very ugly barnacles are not removed, President Obama can veto it and call for a “clean bill.” The bad news is, it’s going to require a big effort on the part of The HSUS and other animal protection and environmental groups, and all right-thinking Americans, to cause so many noxious provisions to be dumped — affecting everything from removing federal protections for a number of endangered species listings to protecting operators of factory farms from Clean Water Act provisions to blocking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from acting to curb the trade in ivory.
We expect the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a proposed rule soon that would restrict the illegal ivory trade, but it probably won’t be until early next year that the Service issues a final rule. Yet the Interior spending bill, expected to be complete by the fall, would stop the Service from taking this critical final step to protect elephants Frankly, I am amazed that some lawmakers and gun organizations are bellyaching about people not being able to sell very limited amounts of ivory. Do they understand what’s at stake? One thousand game wardens have been ambushed and shot to death by poachers. Tens of thousands of elephants have been killed each year, and in some cases, they’ve had their faces carved up with chainsaws. The ivory taken from the elephants is financing the purchase of weapons and vehicles and food for terrorists trying to destabilize African countries and terrorize western nations. These are the same murderers who kill innocent people at malls and universities in Kenya. The economies of many African nations are hemorrhaging. Jobs are being lost, and communities unraveling as a consequence.
And in the midst of all this, these lawmakers are worried about a handful of their constituents selling trinkets? Have they no perspective? Have they no understanding of the larger moral principles at issue, or the multiple crises at work?
The spending bill would also remove federal protections for key populations of wolves, after our long struggle to restore them. In November, Michigan voters rejected efforts to open trophy hunting and trapping seasons for wolves by commanding majorities, and a federal court nullified a prior action by the federal government to take them off the list of protected species. The committee provision seeks to throw the issue back to the state wildlife agencies in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming where hunters and trappers together killed 1,700 wolves before our two lawsuits put a stop to the mass killing and trapping. Hunters and trappers killed more than a third of the wolves in Wisconsin in one year alone.
The case against the wolves is contrived. Among the world’s large predators, they are the least menacing, and they kill a tiny number of livestock, and can be deterred or selectively controlled to further limit those losses.
In a broader sense, it’s clear that wolves provide enormous economic and ecological benefits to the Great Lakes region. People visit wolf-inhabited forests precisely because wolves are there, boosting tourism-related commerce. Wolves also limit deer and moose populations, depressing crop depredation and shrinking the number of collisions between these animals and cars. Through their killing of weak, sick, and older deer and moose, beavers, and other animals, wolves have a broad, balancing, and beneficial impact on ecosystems. Their net economic benefit to these regions is in the tens of millions of dollars. Removing federal protections is a bad idea.
And there’s a much better and constructive way forward: listing wolves as “threatened” rather than “endangered” in the lower 48 states, which would retain federal protections for wolves but also allow more flexibility for state wildlife agencies in dealing with the occasional problem wolf. That compromise proposal is backed by The HSUS and dozens of conservation and wolf protection groups, and 80 members of Congress who wrote to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging its support.
The bill also includes riders to undermine federal protections for sage grouse and the long-eared bat, prevent the EPA from regulating lead ammunition and factory farms, and dozens of other terrible provisions. This bill is a declaration of war against animals and the environment, and it must be stopped or stripped bare.
You can help us take the first shot at stopping this absurd proposal. Please take a minute to contact your lawmakers and urge them to oppose the Interior spending bill and to strike its anti-animal riders, including those related to wolves and elephants.