Budget deal kills gray wolves AND the endangered species act

  • Published on April 11th, 2011

gray wolfLast week we learned that a deal had been struck and the government wasn’t going to shut down. This week, we learn about the collateral damage: What ugly things were agreed to in the process.

Item #1: Gray wolves are being stripped of their status as an endangered species across most of the northern Rockies.

I’ll bet you didn’t think they could do that, did you? Just stick a line in a budget bill and overrule science, the courts, and the entire process? In fact, it’s never been done before. Welcome to the brave new world of anti-science.

“This stealth attack on wolves — which circumvents the will of the courts and good science — was inserted by Representative Mike Simpson (R, ID) and Senator Jon Tester (D, MT),” says Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It was approved by the leadership of both the House and the Senate, and it was okayed by the White House.

“It is a shameful day for this nation when both parties unite behind the slaughter of an endangered species — without public hearing or debate.”

Death to the wolves

As a climax predator, gray wolves are crucial to a healthy ecosystem in the West; but they also have been known to kill livestock, so many ranchers and farmers just see them as a nuisance – so much so that wolves had been wiped out for all practical purposes.

It’s taken years of hard work and millions of dollars spent to restore a relative handful of gray wolves. But under pressure from the ranching industry (which didn’t want to settle for a  program to compensate owners when wolves killed livestock), a number of states have sought permission to solve the problem the old fashioned way – by shooting the wolves.

It’s been litigated in the courts, lobbied in Congress and fought over in the White House. But up till Friday, the line had held firm. Gray wolves were an endangered species and sound science that took into account the needs of everyone in the West said they couldn’t be slaughtered.

Now, with a stroke of a pen, that protection has been swept away.

-> Next page: Death to the Endangered Species Act?

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • Pingback: 2011 Budget Cuts & the Environment | ecopolitology()

  • Bob

    Unfortunately, the constant lawsuits have caused ALL the harm. I have interviewed the top wolf biologists in the nation and every single one said “wolves are recovered and have been for years.” Even the representative on wolf reintroduction for Defenders of Wildlife beginning in 1975 through the reintroduction in 1995, said the greatest damage has been caused by Doug Honnold, attorney for Earth Justice, and the wolf activist organizations represented have screwed this up to the point where there maybe damage to the Endangered Species Act.

    Wolves are recovered and have been since at least 2002. Dr. Mech states there are at least 4000 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, not the 1650 listed. The 1650 is a minimal number that doesn’t come close to representing the actual number of wolves. Every biologist also has stated on film that there is ZERO chance a hunting season will cause any harm to the continued recovery.

    It truly is sad that wolves are being managed in the courts and now in Congress. If people would just listen to the scientists and follow the recommendations of wildlife biologists the wolf issue would be celebrated as an American wildlife success story. Unfortunately, loopholes in the ESA makes it humanly impossible to meet deadlines causing the green organizations to automatically collect attorneys fees to the tune of BILLIONS of dollars. These organizations are getting rich keeping wolves in the news and making outrageous claims. Calling this a ESA success story would cost them about $1 billion a year of taxpayer money in collected attorney fees.

    70+% of voters support wolves. 70+% also support State management. The other culprit of this continued saga is the State of Wyoming. Their lack of a plan has caused great harm as well. It is way past time to manage wolves with professionals instead of judges and Congressmen.

  • Wolves have been the victims of bad p.r. for hundreds of years. The assertion that “many large ungulate populations have been all but wiped out” is untrue. According to Montana 2007-8 estimates, wolves killed less than one fourth of the number of deer that hunters did.

    It is also not true that “a wolf usually eats its prey alive, tearing the calf aborning from the womb of the cow.” Wolves do prey on the very young, old and sickly animals in a herd — unlike hunters, who tend to remove the fittest breeding animals, which is far more damaging to the health of the herd.

    It is also unclear what the purchase of purebred dog in New York (presumably the writer meant New York City, although New York is a vast state with large amounts of wilderness and wildlife) would have to do with the people in the Rocky Mountains.

    I for one live in an area with coyotes and bears I am glad that some of the American wilderness still survives today.

    Don’t take my word for it, though. Check on a reputable site.

  • You are either completely dishonest or entirely delusional if you think “science” requires the Grey Wolf to remain on the ESA! They have been fully recovered for 10 years, according to the original plan. The DNA studies show that they are fully exchanging genetic material. If you Enviro-Extremists would not have pushed this issue with continual lawsuits, it would not REQUIRE congression action. It took congressional action in the 1990 to list them, and now congressional action to de-list them!

  • I believe they are losing endangered listing in Idaho and Montana only.

    They over ruled a court, not courts, and certainly not science but yes on the process.

    Continent wide the gray wolf is a species of “least concern”, populations in Alaska and Canada are robust, and as we are always told, animals don’t recognize a line on the map.


    Scientists told us the gray wolf was successfully reintroduced years ago when populations exceeded 300. Since then all the government scientists have been stymied in their efforts to control populations just as is done with every other large mammal.

    When laws and statutes are implemented in such a way as to be harmful to the citizens and we can’t get remedy through the courts (one judge who is retiring and his successor will be chosen by the exact same senator who introduced this bill by the way) we can legislatively change the law. This is how a Democracy works.

    In conversation with a wolf advocate last week he made a telling observation, I’ll paraphrase.

    You can’t introduce a large carnivore onto the land of a people who don’t want it.

    That was where the mistake was made.

    The payments for damage were terribly lower than the damage. Many large ungulate populations have been all but wiped out. No feeling human being likes to see an animal suffer, a wolf usually eats it’s prey alive, tearing the calf aborning from the womb of the cow.

    Google elk killed by wolf photos. Notice the perineum is eaten out of each one. Nature is indeed cruel but it doesn’t need to be needlessly so. Someone in New York buys a Malamute and the people of the Rocky Mountains pay the price.

    • So an animal has no right to exist if it’s eating habits trouble your sensibilities? This portrayal of wolves as somehow evil and cruel is just ridiculous and outdated. They are an integral part of their ecosystem. As far as science goes, studies show that elk are doing just fine in the region. As for wolves, scientists warn that hundreds or thousands of breeding animals are necessary to maintain a viable gene pool. A northern Rocky Mountain population reduced to less than 500 animals, meaning probably fewer than 100 breeding individuals, will decline once again toward extinction.

    • NH

      You are misinformed about ungulate populations. That is just a hunters fall-back excuse. The inclusion of your hyperlink to IUCN, you need to read further…GLOBALLY there is a minimal concern, but regionally (including the US) wolves are seriously threatened. Besides the Endangered Species Act is a Federal law not an international treaty. The amount of wolves needed to sustain a population is much more than what the ESA states for the Wolf. The initial numbers were not put through the full scientific process to begin with. It all started with politics and unfortunately had just ended with it.