June 03, 2011
Immediately following the publication of the budget bill in the Federal Register, Idaho and Montana announced plans to open the wolf hunt season. This is in addition to other lethal wolf management techniques that are being explored – gassing pups in dens, aerial hunting and trapping, to name a few.
What does wolf hunting have to do with the federal budget? A last-minute rider was attached to the budget bill, for purely political reasons, that stripped wolves of their endangered species protections. Not only did Congress cross a line in micromanaging the Endangered Species Act, but they’re also accused of violating the separation of powers doctrine.
The rider didn’t actually make changes to law itself, but instead reversed the court decision that re-listed wolves as endangered species — a decision which has been appealed and is still an open case before a judge. Lawsuits calling the constitutionality of the budget bill rider into question have been filed.
The non-profit group Kinship Circle is taking a stand against the act of Congress. “I question whether President Obama and his administration fully realize the long-term repercussions of their decision. This rider, buried within a must-pass federal spending bill, was sheer political maneuvering. It establishes an irresponsible precedent not only for wolves, but also for any imperiled species that doesn’t serve Congressional interests,” founder Brenda Shoss told me.
To those of us following the saga of wolves in the Northern Rockies, these decisions have been expected: Instead of scientifically determining whether wolf recovery has been successful, politics has spoken with a clear voice saying wolves are not wanted anywhere.
Federally approved state management plans may be the only reprieve wolves in Idaho and Montana will receive now that they’re no longer protected. The states have to live up to their plans; perhaps the sole reason wolves are not being killed to the point of extirpation. Montana will allow 220 wolves to be hunted this season, almost half of the estimated population. Idaho has not yet decided how many of the state’s estimated 705 wolves may be harvested.
In the meantime, Idaho has partnered up with Wildlife Services, a part of the United States Agriculture Department, to use aerial killing of wolves in an effort to boost elk and other big game numbers. Wildlife Services has a reputation for not serving wildlife, despite what the name suggests. Retired Wildlife Services biologist Carter Niemeyer has seen his fair share of misrepresented facts to satisfy personal agendas.
For example, the number of livestock actually killed by wolves is much smaller than special interests claim, and when you look at the big picture, elk populations are not suffering as much due to wolves as we are led to believe. Yet the misinformation becomes official statistics that guide future management, and these numbers comes into play as evidence in support of policy decisions like the recent budget rider.
It has been years, if not decades, since any decisions about wolf management had anything to do with wolves. Wolves represent much more than themselves, and their management has grown to be more about resistance to federal government and clinging to an outdated notion of the cowboy way of life than protecting animals.
Kinship Circle advocates for non-lethal management techniques over hunting. “People themselves are the ultimate ‘checks and balances,’ and must speak out in cases of violence against animals and misuse of power,” said Brenda. “The majority of citizens do not support taxpayer funded killing of wolves.”
Join Kinship Circle in asking government officials to revoke backdoor political maneuvering and restore a scientific approach to wolf management.