After hundreds of thousands of activists spoke out against it, Congress removed from its spending bill a legislative proposal that would have abandoned gray wolves in four states. A legislative rider that had found its way into the $1.1 trillion omnibus bill would have kicked wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wyoming off of the endangered species list and barred judicial review of that action. Nearly identical to the 2011 Northern Rockies delisting of gray wolves, it sought to substitute political calculations for science and the law and turn management over to states with often-conflicting priorities.
Wolves in these states have been subject to some of the most aggressive hunting and trapping programs: Wyoming wolves were ordered protected last year due to the state’s “shoot on sight” policy in 85 percent of the state, and Wisconsin had the troubling distinction of being the only state to allow the use of packs of hounds to chase wolves to their death. Significant questions were also raised about Wisconsin’s method of counting its population as required by the Endangered Species Act, and a federal judge found Minnesota’s plan created a “virtual carte blanche for the killing of wolves” in ordering wolves in the Great Lakes again protected last December.
Recently, a group of 70 scientists and legal scholars published an open letter detailing the scientific and legal need for the ongoing protection of wolves in the Great Lakes and beyond. This came after Senators Booker and Boxer and Representative Grijalva led 25 Senators and 92 Representatives in sending a letter to President Obama asking that he veto any bill with riders such as that which would have delisted gray wolves. Representatives Pelosi and McCollum and Senators Reid and Peters were instrumental in negotiating the removal of this rider during the budget process.
The upcoming passage of this omnibus spending bill without the wolf rider represents a big win for wolves and the people that care about their continued recovery. We should celebrate this win and thank those that made it possible.