Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Leave it to a chamber of Congress that in too many respects has lost its way on wildlife to embrace a full-scale assault on gray wolves in the immediate aftermath of one of the most sadistic acts of cruelty ever committed against a wild animal―a female gray wolf yearling―in the nation’s history.

Just two months after the despicable sequence of events in which a Wyoming man took a gray wolf he’d run down with a snowmobile to a local bar for a macabre show-and-tell game that ended in the animal’s death, an anti-wolf caucus in the House has pushed through a bill to remove federal Endangered Species Act  protections for the gray wolf in the lower 48 states. It passed by a vote of 209-205.

Without irony, the bill’s sponsor named H.R. 764 the “Trust the Science” Act, and the one thing you can bet on for certain is that this legislation has nothing to do with science. No, it’s a blunt force bid to determine ESA listing and delisting decisions by congressional fiat rather than regulatory procedure, and we know exactly what will happen with its passage, because we’ve seen that tragic script too many times to recount. In a few midwestern and western states, it will be a bloodbath―an open season on gray wolves and a decimation of their populations―in other words, an orgy of wildlife mismanagement.

The only comfort in the wake of such a dark day is that the U.S. Senate will not let such a fatuous measure pass, and were it to do so, President Biden would surely exercise his veto power.

However, that’s no great consolation given the other bills hostile to wildlife approved on the same day.

The second bill to go through, by a vote of 214-201, was H.R. 615, the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act. It sought to perpetuate the use of toxic lead ammunition and tackle on certain federal lands and waters, despite the abundant scientific evidence confirming that lead exposure can be fatal to bald eagles and other wildlife, and extremely dangerous to humans, too, whenever and wherever they have “access” to it. We long ago chose to banish lead from our paint and plumbing supply chains, so why would we tolerate its needless scattering on our parklands?

H.R. 3397, the WEST Act, the third measure that passed, by a vote of 212-202, has but a single purpose, to render an already struggling agency, the Bureau of Land Management, even less effective. It is a frontal attack on the Public Lands Rule, which seeks to clarify the BLM’s role in ensuring good conservation practices, clean water and wildlife habitat, access to nature, and strong stewardship of our nation’s wildlife and cultural values. In the interests of resource extraction for profit, western legislators have exerted such a stranglehold on the BLM for so long that there are few who can even conceive of such a mission for the agency, which is just what the WEST Act’s supporters want.

We fought off a group of similar measures last year, and the designation we used in one instance, calling this kind of attack a “feast of fiends,” is still apt. Without exception, these bills are shameless, cynical, biased, and vicious, and they make false use of science, if they use science at all. It’s truly sad to contemplate, but they do show us where we are in the fight to preserve and extend the protections we’ve achieved for American wildlife in the past.

These were narrow votes, of course, and in their own way a testament to how important it is that we elect sympathetic officials to the House in the fall. We’re grateful to Rep. Don Beyer for speaking strongly for wolf protection, to Rep. Debbie Dingell for speaking up in favor of the lead ammunition ban, and to Rep. Jared Huffman, for speaking up for both bills. And we applaud the courage of those few who broke ranks with the Republican majority to make this close vote a little closer. Perhaps better than anyone else on the floor today, they understood what was at stake.

Flagrant politicking around endangered species, lead ammo and tackle and the fate of our public lands is not new to the Congress, by any means, but it’s no less tragic to see it occur at a time when the odds are so badly stacked against wildlife. Now we’ll turn swiftly to the Senate to defeat these and other measures that endanger wildlife. These are perilous times, and we will have no choice but to fight as hard as we can for the remainder of the 118th Congress to forestall these threats.  

Urge your Senators to vote NO on any bills that attempt to undermine wildlife recovery >>