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Wolf advocates seek emergency listing — Congressional members seek the opposite

By Cat Urbigkit for Tri-State Livestock News

A coalition of wolf advocacy groups sent a petition for an emergency relisting to the U.S. Department of Interior demanding that wolves in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana be placed back under federal protection pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.

Four days later, a bipartisan group of congressional members from Wisconsin and Wyoming introduced a bill in congress that would remove gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes area from ESA protection — and to protect that delisting action, as well as the 2017 removal of wolves in Wyoming from ESA protection, from judicial review. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis, both Republicans representing Wyoming.

In a separate action the same day, a group of 16 Republican members of the U.S. House sent a letter to Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Ranking Member Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., demanding that they schedule a hearing on the proposed “Managing Predators Act” following the recent ruling by a federal judge in California to unilaterally relist the gray wolf throughout much of the United States. This legislation would restore the authority in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, and reinforce the authority in Wyoming of state officials to implement their own management strategies with regard to the gray wolf. The letter was signed by Republican members from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Washington, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Alaska.



State Sen. Tom Tiffany, representing the seventh district of Wisconsin noted that rural communities “have been a ping-pong ball bouncing back and forth between listings and de-listings for years, and the recent court ruling out of California follows suit. We need a permanent legislative solution that gets Washington out of the wolf management business… “

USING SCIENCE



The letter noted: “For too long Congress has abdicated its oversight role in defending the prerogatives of the states by allowing radical special interest groups and the courts to convert the ESA list into a perpetual “Hotel California” in which species “check in” — but can never leave. If the science shows that a species has recovered and the agency moves to de-list a species using ample scientific evidence, then it should be de-listed. If states and stakeholders lose faith in the de-listing process, which we are seeing, then there will no longer be any incentive for proactive conservation work and species will suffer.”

It’s doubtful that Chairman Grijalva will look favorably on the letter, since last month the Arizona Democrat praised the court decision placing most wolves back under federal protection and declared that further work needs to be done in order to get wolves in the Northern Rockies back under federal protection. He signed a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland urging an emergency relisting for wolves last December.

THE PETITION

The petition for an emergency petition for relisting wolves in the Northern Rockies was signed by the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Wyoming Untrapped, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, and others. The petition notes that in 2009, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service stated “if a state changed their regulatory framework to authorize the unlimited and unregulated taking of wolves, a condition we have previously determined threatened a wolf population, emergency listing would be immediately pursued.” The petition stated, “Given the regulatory changes in Idaho and Montana, and continued inadequacy of state management in Wyoming, the service must adhere to its 2009 promise to relist wolves on an emergency basis.”

The petition alleges Montana, Idaho and Wyoming’s effort to manage wolves in alignment with minimal recovery goals set by the federal agency is the reason for the emergency relisting. The petition says that although state wildlife managers “claim they are simply reducing their wolf populations to FWS recovery levels and therefore such levels must be viable, the FWS-defined recovery levels were never truly viable.”

Although the petitioners claim that state management is bringing wolves “to the point that puts them back on the brink of extinction” that is not supported by state wildlife agency reports. Still, the petitioners state, “Emergency listing of the gray wolf could prevent extinction and is in line with the original commitment of FWS to protect public land that supports gray wolf territories and dispersal corridors.”

Last September, FWS announced it was undertaking a 12-month status review of wolves in the western states, in response to petitions filed by the same groups, among others.


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