Gray wolves have been listed as endangered or threatened in the lower 48 states since the 1960s, but the lame-duck Republican House wants to strip federal protections from most wolves.
The House voted 196-180 to approve H.R.6784 on Nov. 16 with 187 Republicans and nine Democrats voting for it. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), would strip federal protection from gray wolves, except Mexican wolves in the southwest, and prevent courts from reviewing the changes.
“This final, pathetic stab at wolves exemplifies House Republicans’ longstanding cruelty and contempt for our nation’s wildlife,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The American people overwhelmingly support the Endangered Species Act and the magnificent animals and plants it protects.”
In the Senate, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who has voted against the Endangered Species Act more than a dozen times, is sponsoring S.1514 which would also end federal protection for gray wolves.
Hartl said chances that a bill killing federal protections for wolves will pass in the Senate are “nearly zero.”
David Bernhardt, now the No. 2 official in Trump’s Interior Department, wrote the legal memo underpinning Republican efforts to weaken protections for gray wolves in 2008 under former President George W. Bush.
Federal Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee, didn’t think much of those efforts or a rule from the Obama administration that would have removed the gray wolf from the list of protected species in nine Midwestern states.
“The FWS’s Final Rule challenged in this action is no more valid than the agency’s three prior attempts to remove federal protections for a population of gray wolves,” Howell wrote in 2014 in Humane Society of the United States v. Sally Jewell. Her ruling was affirmed on appeal.
But in March 2017, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld delisting the gray wolf in Wyoming. Wolves are also don’t have federal protections in Montana, Idaho, eastern Oregon, and parts of Utah and Washington.
In the eight states where gray wolves live, sheep and cattle killed by wolves amount to just 0.04% of the livestock inventories. More die from breast infections.
Gray wolves once roamed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but they were shot, trapped and poisoned by European settlers bent on eradicating them. In the 1800s, wolves were slaughtered in wolf drives where men would surround swamps or woods armed with pitchforks, guns and spears.
Wolves have lost much of their genetic diversity because of the mass killings. Today they are in about 5% of their historic range in our country.
The Center for Biological Diversity asked the Interior Department during the Obama administration to develop a national recovery plan for gray wolves like those done for the bald eagle and brown pelican. The petition said wolf populations are small and isolated and at risk of inbreeding.