A bipartisan group of five senators from Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have introduced a bill in the United States Senate to allow those three states and Michigan to self-manage their native gray wolf populations, bypassing current restrictions on hunting and trapping gray wolves, a species currently covered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
According to Backpacker, the bill is being referred to by environmental activists as the “War on Wolves Act, “ and it could have devastating consequences for native wolf populations in those states, especially in Wyoming. The last time Wyoming was allowed to manage its endangered gray wolf population was 2013. In that year, hunters and trappers in Wyoming were bound by regulations in only 15 percent of the state. In the remaining 85 percent of Wyoming, hunters could legally kill an unlimited number of wolves using any method of their choosing. In 2014, a federal judge deemed the state’s conservation rules insufficient and ordered Wyoming to protect the wolves in accordance with the Endangered Species Act.
Environmental activist group, Earthjustice, released an official statement on the proposed “War on Wolves” law on its site.
“A new congress has resurfaced an old vendetta against imperiled wolves,” write Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel, Marjorie Mulhall. “If this legislation is signed into law, wolves in Wyoming will be subjected to unregulated killing across the vast majority of the state, and even on the borders of Yellowstone National Park numerous legal loopholes will authorize widespread wolf killing. Americans widely hailed the return of wolves to the Northern Rockies two decades ago as a triumph of the Endangered Species Act, but now this ‘War on Wolves Act’ would allow for the same unregulated killing that nearly wiped out the species in the first place.”
The Senator sponsoring the bill is Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. The bill’s co-sponsors are Republicans John Barrasso and Michael Enzi of Wyoming and Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. The argument in support of the act rests on the belief that the wolf populations have successfully recovered in these areas and that hunting and trapping are needed to protect local livestock. According to Backpacker, L. David Mech, a senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, believes that the law will not lead to the gray wolves becoming further endangered, saying that the result will be “nothing consequential except fewer livestock and dogs killed.”
The Bill (S.164) was introduced in the Senate in January and has not yet come up for a vote and is not currently scheduled for a vote. Activists have begun the process of circulating online petitions to stop passage of the bill. Any bill that could potentially harm the existence of an animal believed to be endangered is certain to generate controversy and provoke an emotional response from environmentalists and animal advocates.
It would be a terrible thing if yet another species were to become extinct due to the excesses of human behavior. Many argue that the passage of this so-called “War on Wolves Act” will lead directly to putting the gray wolf species in danger. Others argue that their numbers have increased to sustainable levels and leaving their management to the states will do enough to prevent them from slipping back toward possible extinction. One can only hope that if the bill does manage to get passed in the Senate, that the states will do better to ensure the survival of the gray wolf species than they did in the past before the Endangered Species Act protections were put in place.