Seventy-five members of Congress are demanding that the Obama administration end all protection of the gray wolf as “endangered” or “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act, in an effort organized by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already de-listed wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains — leading to big, officially encouraged wolf kills, particularly in Idaho — and in the Great Lakes States.
The gray wolf has moved south from protected lands on the U.S.-Canada border to repopulate the Washington Cascades, including the Teanaway Valley. (Photo courtesy of Conservation Northwest).
In Washington, wolves are still under federal protection in the Cascades, but not in the Kettle Range and Selkirk Mountains of Northeast Washington. There, they receive state protection, which is under attack by conservative state legislators.
The lawmakers’ letter uses age-old arguments for removing protection so that wolves can be killed.
“Since wolves were first provided protection under the ESA, uncontrolled and unmanaged growth of wolf populations has resulted in devastating impacts on hunting and ranching and tragic damages to historically strong and healthy herds of moose, elk, bighorn sheep and mule deer,” they wrote in the letter to Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, a Washington-based group that has championed wolf recovery, scoffed at the letter’s assertions.
“It’s surprising Little Red Riding Hood isn’t mentioned,” said Friedman.
“The letter acknowledges that ‘federal policy must be based on best available science,’ then goes on to make the false and hyperbolic claim about ‘devastating impacts’ on fishing and ranching,” Friedman added. “Throughout wolf territory, game populations are generally at or above levels desired by state managers.
“These Tea Party legislators have so proven Congress that they’ve resorted to attempting policy by press release. Their letter is off enough on matters of law, science and facts.”
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.: He is lead on a letter, signed by 75 members of Congress, demanding an end to all federal protection of wolves under the Endangered Species Act.
Hastings is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., who also signed the letter, is a member of the House Republican Leadership.
The gray wolf has returned to Washington’s mountains in recent year. A killing spree by three Okanogan County residents — who were caught and prosecuted under federal law — nearly destroyed one pack that had established itself in the upper Methow Valley of the North Cascades.
Other packs have located in the upper Teanaway Valley, in the Cascades north of Cle Elum, as well as in northeast Washington. A majority of the state’s wolf population has the misfortune to live in congressional districts represented by Hastings and McMorris Rodgers.
The letter asking for de-listing of wolves is signed by a who’s-who of Tea Party members in Congress, including such luminaries as Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.
A pair of conservative House Democrats, Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jim Matheson of Utah, signed the letter.
The letter also opposes a proposal to list the rare Mexican wolf, found in the Southwest, as a subspecies under the Endangered Species Act. Such a listing would have a “Severe impact on private landowners, including ranchers” in Arizona and New Mexico, the lawmakers claim.
“We believe that state governments are fully qualified to responsibly manage wolf populations and are better able to meet the needs of local communities and wildlife populations,” said the letter.
Friedman argued the reverse, saying that Hastings and his allies are grandstanding and doing nothing to encourage cooperation between local communities and conservation groups.
“Real ranchers and communities — including in Eastern Washington — are stepping up to work with groups like ours on practices that allow wolves and livestock to share the land,” he said.
“There are ways that Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rodgers could help, but I’m still waiting for their call.”