In a shameless move that puts at risk one of America’s most valued and iconic native carnivores, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the continental United States. The bill, which passed today by a vote of 196 to 180, still needs Senate approval, and that gives us a chance to kill it. If we don’t, we’ll be facing a scenario in which states are permitted to open up a trophy hunting season on gray wolves, putting them in the crosshairs of hunters, commercial trappers and ranchers.
The House vote on the Manage our Wolves Act, H.R. 6784, introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., threatens the future of gray wolves because they are only recovered to about five percent of their historic range. But there’s something still more outrageous about this legislation as a matter of democratic principle. It strips the courts of authority to review endangered species protection decisions to ensure that they are not made on political or other impermissible bases, and that’s a travesty.
Most Americans do not want wolves to be hunted. A multitude of polls and studies show that Americans value and appreciate wolves and want to see them protected and treated humanely. Today’s vote subverts the public will in deference to trophy hunting and agribusiness interests, even though the federal agency charged with wildlife protection already has authority to amend protections where they are supported by science. A handful of congressmen working for special interests have turned American democracy on its head.
The champions of this outrageous measure have pushed out the canard that it is a mitigation measure to help ranchers and farmers, despite the fact that wolves only take 0.04 percent of the livestock in the states where they are present. Data we analyzed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that most livestock losses come from health problems, weather events, poison and theft.
We’ve got to do our best to make sure that this dangerous bill does not pass in the Senate. Were it to become law, history shows that states will do nothing to protect wolves. Even now, states like Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are poised to open liberal trophy hunting and trapping seasons on them.
Wolves are intelligent, family-oriented animals, and when members of the pack are killed, it not only causes grief for the survivors, but it disrupts their entire social structure. Pups and yearlings cannot survive if their parents and other family members are killed.
The vote today was mostly along party lines, with nine Democrats joining 187 Republicans to pass the bill. Twelve Republicans voted to oppose it. We are grateful to Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who spoke on the House floor to oppose the bill.
But the protection of our wildlife ought not to be a partisan issue: wolves are not hunted for food and we must work for the day when all can agree that one of America’s most beautiful carnivores should not be reduced to a pelt or a trophy on a wall.
We also shouldn’t stand for some of our most basic democratic rights taken away from us, like the right to challenge regulatory action by the government that is supposed to represent us and properly implement our laws. Please contact your U.S. Senator and let them know that you will not stand for this brazen attack on our precious wildlife.