(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Amidst continuing controversy in the way gray wolf (Canis lupus) populations are being managed by red states, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has issued a scathing statement on the embattled species. Her words display a strong reverence for the creature and highlight the need for apex predators in American ecosystems. But her statement also carried a warning: “We [have] the ability to act swiftly to protect gray wolves if science indicates that there is an emergency posing a significant risk to the well-being of the species. In such an emergency, the Fish and Wildlife Service can immediately list the species for 240 days.” Conservation groups are urging the Secretary to do just that: re-list the species on emergency grounds.
As sad as it may sound, hunting wolves to the brink of extinction is, well, about as American as apple pie. In 2020, just a few days before the election, the Trump Administration stripped gray wolves of their Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections across the lower-48 states in what conservation groups called a “last-ditch ploy for Midwest votes.” A coalition of 17 environmental groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for that move a few days before Trump left office. Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project (WWP) — one of the organizations in the the group of plaintiffs — informed EnviroNews the case has been “fully briefed” and that “a ruling could emerge any day.” [EDITOR’S NOTE: Only a hours after this story was published, that ruling did come down. In a major victory for environmental groups, the court ruled gray wolves must be re-listed under the Endangered Species Act. For EnviroNews‘ breaking coverage on that story, click here.]
But ever since Trump’s USFWS removed ESA protections for Canis lupus, lawmakers — primarily from red states — both at the state and federal level — have been emboldened and licking their chops at the opportunity to open up more wolf hunts — an opportunity denied them in many places for years by the guardrails of the ESA.
ALL SINCE BIDEN TOOK OFFICE
On July 1, 2021, the Idaho State legislature passed Senate Bill 1211, which was promptly signed into law by Governor Brad Little. The bill allows any person with a wolf tag to kill an unlimited number and removes restrictions on how the creatures can be hunted. The law was supported heavily by ranchers who lost a reported 84 cattle and sheep to wolf predation in 2020 — that’s 84 out of 2.7 million livestock specimens in the state.
The Idaho law caused a national uproar and drew sharp criticism from conservation groups that say out-of-control wildlife laws like SB 1211 will drive Canis lupus back to the brink of extinction. In years past, Idaho has hosted wolf-killing derbies and awarded prize money to hunters who could bag the most wolves or coyotes.
Meanwhile, Montana lost its Democratic governor Steve Bullock, who was defeated and replaced by Trump bootlicker and journalist-assaulter Greg Gianforte. Gianforte kept up his scofflaw behavior even after taking office when he illegally trapped and killed a radio-collared wolf that had wandered outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. While still embroiled in his own wolf-killing scandal, four wolf-killing bills were delivered to Gianforte’s desk by the Montana legislature; he signed them all into law. Montana is another state that has hosted controversial wolf-killing contests.
Going further still, last year, Montana implemented new regulations that lifted the quota of wolves that could be hunted along the Yellowstone National Park border from just a few animals, to an unlimited amount, enraging wildlife advocates around the country and the globe. “Now, every wolf coming into the state from America’s first national park [can be] killed as a trophy,” wrote the Montana Journal.
Former Yellowstone Superintendent Michael V. Finley put Montana on blast, saying this:
Montana is hellbent on erasing one of the greatest wildlife conservation success stories in the history of this country and its liberalized wolf-killing policies allowed to exist literally on the doorstep of Yellowstone are a disgrace. What this does is put wolves, which people come from around the world to see in Yellowstone — and I should note spend money in Montana — in peril. It’s not only wanton waste and morally and ethically reprehensible but it could also destroy decades of valuable scientific research into these animals.
Yellowstone National Park and the Phantom Lake Pack
Last month, park officials at Yellowstone National Park informed the press that they consider the entire Phantom Lake Pack “eliminated” after the canine family roamed outside park borders during hunting season. 15 were killed in Montana and another 5 went down in Idaho and Wyoming. Park Superintendent Cam Sholly penned a letter to Governor Gianforte, urging him to shut down hunting in the zones adjoining Yellowstone where the animals were culled; Gianforte ignored that request. The episode represents the highest number or Yellowstone wolves killed in a single season since the iconic predator was reintroduced to the park more than 25 years ago.
In Wyoming, things aren’t looking any brighter for the wolf — or, maybe it’s the Big Bad Wolf if you talk to western ranchers. In 2017 wolves lost their endangered protections in the Cowboy State after a long legal battle (the species had already been carved off the list in Montana and Idaho in 2011).
State wildlife management agencies swiftly implemented a “shoot-on-site” policy for wolves across nearly 75 percent of the state; the scheme remains in place. Recently, Governor Mark Gordon (R) made strong statements discouraging a 12-month review by USFWS that is exploring whether the species should be re-listed under the ESA.
Red State Groups Force Purple State to Host a Wolf ‘Bloodbath’
Unfortunately for wolves, they can’t even catch a break in purple states, because purple states can’t avoid red state wolf-blood-lust either. In February of 2021, a wolf hunt was opened in Wisconsin after sportsmen groups from Kansas sued Wisconsin for not following its own state constitution and opening a hunt. A court agreed and the event was opened, despite many objections — including plenty from inside Wisconsin.
27,000 people applied for a tag. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) set the limit at 200 animals — 81 of which were supposed to have been reserved for the local Ojibwe Tribes (who considered it wasteful to hunt the wolves in February anyway due to mating season and poor fur quality). But before WDNR could even notify hunters and shut the event down, one-fifth of the state’s wolf population had been annihilated, with nearly 100 more animals being culled than were allowed by the quota.
THE BUCK STOPS WHERE?
Since Biden took the helm one year ago, things haven’t gotten any peachier for gray wolves. Au contraire, it’s gotten more dangerous for them in the wild. And even though the door may have been opened under the Trump Administration, the fact remains: wolves are facing increased threats on Biden’s watch.
Secretary Haaland is aware of this and made it evidently clear in a statement penned as an op-ed in USA Today this week. Her entire statement reads:
Since time immemorial, wolves have lived alongside Indigenous peoples and have represented the virtues of healing, strength and familial protection. In many tribes, they are honored in traditional ceremonies and revered in storytelling.
Even today, I feel the embrace of my ancestors reminding me why our nonhuman relatives deserve respect – because the creator put them here to live.
For centuries, wolves have been exploited for their furs, killed in the name of protecting people, livestock and game species and nearly eliminated through government-sponsored actions. Decades of hard work by states, tribes and stakeholders on the ground, along with federal protections, successfully recovered gray wolves after two centuries of decline to the brink of extinction.
As secretary of the Interior, I am committed to ensuring that wolves have the conservation they need to survive and thrive in the wild based on science and law. I am also committed to keeping communities safe and reducing wolf conflicts with ranchers. It is critical that we all recognize that our nation’s wolf populations are integral to the health of fragile ecosystems and hold significant cultural importance in our shared heritage.
Jeopardizing gray wolf recovery
We are alarmed by recent reports from Montana, where so far this season nearly 20 gray wolves that set foot outside of Yellowstone National Park have been killed. This happened because the state recently removed longstanding rules in areas adjacent to the park, which were effective in protecting Yellowstone wolves that do not recognize boundary lines on a map.
We have communicated to state officials that these kinds of actions jeopardize the decades of federal and state partnerships that successfully recovered gray wolves in the northern Rockies.
The law requires that states uphold reserved tribal treaty rights. Therefore, in the case of the Ojibwe Tribes in Wisconsin, the Interior Department formally requested that the state consult and coordinate with the tribes when making wolf management decisions and respect the tribes’ right to conserve rather than kill wolves. We will take similar actions on behalf of other tribes where necessary.
Finally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has authority under the Endangered Species Act to protect threatened and endangered species. Thanks in large part to this bedrock environmental law, gray wolves recovered from near extinction to current numbers that exceeded expectations. Because of the gray wolf’s recovery, individual states are responsible for its welfare and sustaining that recovery. Nevertheless, we will reinstate federal protections under the ESA for the northern Rocky Mountains’ gray wolf, if necessary.
Next steps for the gray wolf:
The Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating whether a re-listing of the northern Rocky Mountains’ gray wolf population under the Endangered Species Act is necessary.
Recent laws passed in some Western states undermine state wildlife managers by promoting precipitous reductions in wolf populations, such as removing bag limits, baiting, snaring, night hunting and pursuit by dogs— the same kind of practices that nearly wiped out wolves during the last century. In response, last September the Fish and Wildlife Service began a 12-month analysis to determine, guided by science and the law, whether reinstating ESA protections is warranted.
We also have the ability to act swiftly to protect gray wolves if science indicates that there is an emergency posing a significant risk to the well-being of the species. In such an emergency, the Fish and Wildlife Service can immediately list the species for 240 days. We are closely monitoring data on wolf populations and will make those determinations if merited using the best available science.
Gray wolf recovery has been an American conservation success story. The continued recovery of gray wolves depends on the cooperation of wildlife managers at the state, tribal and federal levels, and a reliance on the best available science to guide management decisions. The clock is ticking. We must find solutions that allow wolves to flourish, even while we balance the needs of hunters and ranchers and others who live and work along with wolves on the landscape.
My Pueblo ancestors taught me to live with courage, respect our ecosystems and protect our families – the very same virtues that wolves embody. From our public lands to our vast oceans, and all the creatures that live within them, I will continue to work hard for our nation’s wildlife and its habitats, because we were meant to all coexist on this earth – the only place we all call home.
BREAKING: Gray Wolves Re-Listed as Endangered Following Huge Lawsuit by 18 Environmental Orgs – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists
(EnviroNews DC News Bureau)- Washington D.C. – Days ahead of the 2020 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump’s Interior Department (DOI/Interior) under Secretary David Bernhardt made an announcement that sent shockwaves through the environmental movement: gray wolves ( Canis lupus) were to be stripped of their protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the lower-48 states.
MT Gov. Greg Gianforte Illegally Trapped, Killed a Yellowstone Wolf; Now He’s Signing Wolf-Harvesting Bills into Law – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists
(EnviroNews Montana) – Helena, Montana – Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R) violated Montana state regulations when he trapped and killed wolf “1155” in February near Yellowstone National Park. Gianforte killed the collared gray wolf ( Canis lupus) about 10 miles north of the park.
Breaking: Trump Admin Just Stripped Gray Wolves of Endangered Species Act Protection Across Lower 48 States – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists
( EnviroNews Nature ) – Bloomington, Minnesota – In 1978, the gray wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in every state in the contiguous U.S. except Minnesota, where it was listed as threatened. Since then, farmers, ranchers, Sen.
Trump Admin Sued Bigly by 17 Wildlife Orgs for Stripping Gray Wolves of Endangered Status – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists
(EnviroNews Nature) – On Jan. 14, 2021, a coalition of nine conservation organizations represented by the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for its decision to “prematurely” strip the gray wolf ( Canis lupus) of protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Lower 48 states.
Debacle: How a Kansas Group Forced a Wolf Hunt in Wisconsin That Turned into a ‘Bloodbath’; 97 Wolves Killed over the Limit – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists
(EnviroNews Nature) – One-fifth of Wisconsin’s gray wolf ( Canis lupus) population is dead after hunters and trappers slaughtered more than 200 animals in a three-day, sanctioned trophy binge. Official numbers reported by Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) show the “harvest” exceeded quota numbers in every zone, resulting in almost twice the number of wolf-kills as was sanctioned.
Wyoming Wolves Stripped of Endangered Species Act Protection – Shoot-on-Sight Policy Restored – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists
(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Gray wolves ( Canis lupus) will no longer be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the state of Wyoming. That was the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on March 3, 2017, which also happened to be World Wildlife Day.
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