States’ rights key to wolf act
Washington, D.C. – In the first days of December Representative Cynthia Lummis, along with seven other Congressional Western Caucus members, introduced the State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act.
The Dec. 2 effort would return management authority of gray wolves to the states, and would remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list.
Meanwhile, controversy over wolf management has arisen amongst the Governors of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. According to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, a breakdown in the conversation between the three states and the Obama administration makes it unlikely Congress will address the issue this year.
According to Governor Freudenthal’s office, “Governor Freudenthal appreciates Secretaries Salazar and Strickland’s willingness to discuss wolf management issues with Wyoming, and he believes there are several points on which Wyoming must have resolution. Wyoming will continue this discussion, remain at the table in good faith and work with Interior to resolve the issues surrounding wolf management.”
According to the congressmen, the State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act would improve the balance of wolf and prey populations by allowing individual states to develop management plans that address their unique needs. To implement those programs, the wolf must be delisted as an endangered or threatened species.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s goal to recover wolves in Wyoming was met long ago. Wolves are thriving, but Wyoming’s ranchers and large game herds are taking a hit – the Gros Ventre moose herd, for example, has been decimated. All the while Washington stands idly by, and activist courts continually move the goal posts. Instead of waiting for Washington to fulfill its end of the bargain by delisting the wolf, it’s time the states take things into their own hands. Our experts in Wyoming are best suited to manage wolves in our state,” says Lummis of the legislation.
The text of the legislation reads: Notwithstanding any other provisions of the law (including regulations), the inclusion of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) (including any gray wolf designated as “non-essential experimental”) on any list of endangered species or threatened species under section 4(c)(1) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (7 U.S.C. 1533(c)(1)) shall have no force or effect.
“Wyoming Farm Bureau has supported these efforts, and I think this will be the best way to address this problem,” says Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton. “Any time we try to address the wolf issue through the state, it gets tied up on court.”
Hamilton says that, since the wolf conflict was brought about by an action from Congress, he doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to have Congress address it now. “That way we don’t have to keep going back to court with appeals,” he says.
Hamilton says he doesn’t think the Nov. 18 ruling of U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson ruling against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to accept Wyoming’s wolf management plan will affect Congress’s decision, but he does say that ruling is a clear indication that something needs to be done.
“Returning wolf management to the states isn’t a partisan issue that pits Republicans against Democrats. It’s about state’s rights. After holding hearings in Montana and reading thousands of comments, it’s clear that folks in Western states like Montana are sick and tired of powerful environmental interest groups funded out of places like San Francisco and New York telling us how to manage our lands, resources and wildlife,” adds Congressman Denny Rehberg.
“Judge Malloy’s decision to put wolves back on the endangered species list is wreaking havoc in Idaho,” states Congressman Mike Simpson. “It is frustrating to me that some people persist in acting as though the end goal in this process is to simply keep wolves on the endangered species list instead of to recover the species so that it can be properly managed by the states. It is clear that wolf recovery has exceeded goals and expectations and that Idaho’s state management plan has proven effective, and we need to act now to restore the states’ authority to manage these animals.”
“State and local wildlife management agencies and their personnel have proven capable of managing and preserving gray wolf populations. In fact, thanks to their efforts, the gray wolf is thriving throughout the West,” says Western Caucus Chairman Rob Bishop. “The federal government needs to get out of the way and allow the knowledgeable experts to begin implementation of programs designed to meet the unique and individual needs of their state’s wildlife. I have the utmost confidence that, with this legislation, states will be able to successfully manage each wolf population and ensure their long-term health and viability.”
“The federal government must allow states to manage wolf populations. Recent court rulings signal judicial support for state management plans,” says Congressman Jason Chaffetz. “Now is the time for Congress to act. Wolf populations have grown significantly since first receiving protection under the Endangered Species Act. It is appropriate to have the wolf delisted at this time. The states are better equipped to manage and maintain recovered wolf populations.”
“I don’t think anyone involved feels like this will be a quick thing, but we recognize that going through the Executive Branch on delisting would probably take 10 or 12 years, so this is an opportunity to get something done sooner,” says Hamilton.
“I’m hopeful that this is preparation for getting something done in the next Congress,” he continues. “Next session, with Republicans in control of the House, there may be opportunities to hold hearings, and I think that will help convey the understanding that we need to move something forward in Congress.”