Congress may fire a shot in the dark that hits endangered gray wolves.
After a court decision reversed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision to remove gray wolves in the northern Rockies from the endangered species list, the administration is backing an effort in Congress to simply exclude those wolves from current or future protection under the Endangered Species Act.
President Obama wants to throw wolves under the bus. Never mind that the Endangered Species Act includes a process for delisting that is based on science, not politics. Or that the proposed congressional action undermines the law by setting a precedent that could result in any number of controversial species being abandoned to extinction.
The administration supports one of at least six measures in Congress aimed at wolves. Some affect reintroduced Mexican gray wolves that are struggling to survive in a recovery area in Arizona and New Mexico.
Unlike wolves in the Rockies, who have achieved robust populations, there are only 42 Mexican gray wolves in the wild. Even with federal protection, this fragile population is in danger. Without federal protection, these wolves could be doomed.
Congress should not arbitrarily bypass the legal and scientific process for delisting a species that is outlined in the Endangered Species Act – especially not in the dark. Environmental groups say the plan is to attach a bill excluding wolves in the northern Rockies from the Endangered Species Act to a larger omnibus bill before the end of the year. There would be no hearings and there is no assurance that Mexican gray wolves would not be added to the exclusion.
The Endangered Species Act is a popular, scientifically sound law that has had spectacular success recovering species like eagles, condors and wolves. Congress should not undermine it.
This editorial was published in the AZ Republic on December 10, 2010.
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Photo credit: Mexican gray wolf courtesy of the Endangered Wolf Center