House and Senate abandon commitment to protecting wildlife
- Congress moves forward with provision to strip federal protections for wolves in Idaho, Montana and portions of Oregon, Washington and Utah as part of Continuing Budget Resolution
- Idaho and Montana will take over wolf management with no meaningful restrictions on the number of wolves that can be killed or any requirement to maintain viable wolf populations
- This unprecedented action marks the first time in the history of the Endangered Species Act that protections for a specific species will be revoked by Congress
- Provision paves the way for other bills that undermine the scientific principles of the Endangered Species Act and put countless other species at risk at the whim of politicians
Congress and the Obama administration reached an agreement late last night on a Continuing Budget Resolution that includes a provision to strip federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. The provision requires the Secretary of the Interior to reinstate the same 2009 delisting rule that was declared unlawful by a federal district court, while insulating the provision from any legal challenge. The budget resolution is expected to be approved by Congress early next week.
The 2009 delisting rule was based in large measure on decades-old and unscientific recovery goals providing for just 100 to 150 wolves in Idaho and in Montana. Furthermore, the 2009 rule established no requirement that Oregon, Washington or Utah adopt wolf management plans to ensure the species’ recovery in those states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to manage wolves in Wyoming until the Secretary approves a management plan for the state.
The following is a statement from Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife:
“The tragic decision by Congress and the Obama administration to strip protections for wolves is a betrayal of the country’s commitment to endangered wildlife. All those involved with passing this legislation have essentially sanctioned the management of wildlife based on prejudice and fear instead of science. Both the Idaho and Montana legislatures are moving statewide legislation to greatly expand wolf killing, and we can only expect that their unjustified campaigns to wipe out wolves will begin almost immediately.
“Congress is trying to force this through on a budget bill in a moment of incredible desperation. And for what? To appease a tiny group of the most radical hunters and ranchers who want to get rid of wolves entirely. Nevermind that the vast majority of Americans, including those of us in the West, recognize the wolf as a vital part of our wilderness and want wildlife decisions to be made by scientists, not politicians.
“This action comes at a time when a settlement agreement is still pending in court that could peacefully resolve the political impasse over wolves in a scientific manner, if given a chance. Instead of waiting for a decision, Congress is choosing to turn its back on the future of wolves and ignore the scientific principles of wildlife conservation. Never before in the history of the Endangered Species Act, the world’s pre-eminent wildlife conservation law, has Congress stripped protections for one particular species. If our elected leaders are willing to shirk their responsibility to protect wildlife for political gain, how will they meet the even greater challenges that lay ahead?”Background:
Just weeks after taking office in 2009, Secretary Salazar approved the Bush administration’s proposal to delist wolves in the Northern Rockies, violating long-standing U.S. Fish and Wildlife policy and the Endangered Species Act. Defenders of Wildlife and a coalition of other conservation groups sued the Department of the Interior for improperly removing protections for a species listed under the ESA. In August, a U.S. District court in Montana struck down that delisting determination, restoring federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. Since that time, lawsuit plaintiffs continued negotiations with the Interior Department while legislative proposals to strip protections for wolves began to surface. Ten conservation groups reached a tentative settlement agreement  with the Interior Department and filed it with a U.S. District Court in Montana on March 18. The court had not yet decided whether to approve the settlement, which is now voided by the budget provision.
Contact(s):John Motsinger, (202) 772-0288