A newly-introduced bill regarding gray wolf management flew under the radar just before the holiday.
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)’s Senate Bill 3140, or the American Wild Game and Livestock Protection Act, was introduced in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on December 19th, 2019. If passed, the bill would “require the Secretary of the Interior to issue a final rule relating to the delisting of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.”
In March 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced their intention to delist the Lower-48 gray wolf, given the species’ extraordinary recovery and current population numbers—which hover around 5,700. The proposed rule is described in the following manner:
“We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or USFWS), have evaluated the classification status of gray wolves (Canis lupus) currently listed in the contiguous United States and Mexico under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Based on our evaluation, we propose to remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. We propose this action because the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the currently listed entities do not meet the definitions of a threatened species or endangered species under the Act due to recovery. The effect of this rulemaking action would be to remove the gray wolf from the Act’s protections. This proposed rule does not have any effect on the separate listing of the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) as endangered under the Act.
Lee stressed his bill “would avoid all litigation over the grey wolf’s endangered species status by simply declaring them not endangered pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.”
Here’s more about S.B. 3140 below:
The science is on the government’s side. Today there are an estimated 5,600 gray wolves in the United States and grey wolf population continues to exceed the appropriate management levels established by relevant state wildlife divisions and benchmarks from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
There are so many grey wolves roaming the west that they have become a real threat to America’s livestock. “Populations have reached critically high numbers in many states – so high, in fact, that wolves are not just preying on livestock, but pushing elk and deer onto U.S. farms and ranches, which leads to even more destruction,” The American Farm Bureau Federation said when the FWS announced their new regulation.
Unfortunately, wealthy environmentalists whose livelihoods do not depend on healthy herds of sheep and cattle disagree. They have promised to sue to stop the rule in federal court. And while it is almost assured FWS would win eventually, the lawsuits could delay implementation of the regulation for months and even years.
He added this bill wouldn’t prevent the U.S. government from relisting the gray wolf in the future again if it were to become endangered.
This bill would in no way stop or even slow a possible relisting of the grey wolf if population numbers fall in the future. If the situation changes, if the science shows the grey wolf has become endangered again, then a future government could relist the grey wolf. This bill does not prevent that.
As of this writing, there hasn’t been any movement on the bill.
BigGame Forever president and founder Ryan Benson, who runs the Utah-based hunting organization, praised Lee’s bill by saying, “We greatly appreciate Senator Mike Lee’s leadership to shift stewardship responsibility of the gray wolf to states, which can effectively manage the species in their areas.”
He added, “Delisting the gray wolf from the endangered list also allows states to protect and recover America’s elk, moose and deer, while managing the population of the wolves.”
They cited the decline of elk populations, largely attributed to predators like wolves, as their reason for supporting Lee’s bill.
Delisting the gray wolf would return management to the states—regarded as the rightful place for wolf management—in accordance with Interior and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rules. Once a species is fully recovered, as per conditions enumerated in the Endangered Species Act, endangered or threatened protections should be accordingly removed. State management programs involving culling wolf populations—particularly in Montana, Idaho, and Alaska, for example— are highly regulated and seen as highly effective.
This will certainly be met with challenges, as animal rights activists and anti-hunting organizations will resort to judicial activism to thwart management efforts.
In December 2014, a federal judge ruled gray wolf hunting in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, states comprising the Great Lakes region, should be illegal. The ruling restored”endangered” species protections onto the species after the anti-hunting organization Humane Society sued USFWS.
During the 115th Congress, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the Manage Our Wolves Act with some bipartisan support.
The Resurgent will continue to monitor the latest updates involving Senator Lee’s bill.