April 1, 2011
Western lawmakers said they will keep pushing to lift federal protections for gray wolves despite a proposed settlement between some environmentalist groups and the administration. The settlement faces several legal hurdles before it can go into effect, leaving uncertain whether it will be approved before lawmakers act.
The deal would lift endangered species protections for about 1,250 wolves and allow hunting in Idaho and Montana. Protections would be retained, at least temporarily, for almost 400 wolves in Wyoming and portions of Utah, Washington and Oregon. The agreement also includes safeguards sought by environmentalists, most notably a scientific review in a few years that could put the species back on the endangered list if too many wolves are killed by hunting.
Yet Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) told the Associated Press he won't wait to push through legislation if Congress can act more quickly. In the House, Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) said he, too, remains committed to his pending proposal to lift wolf protections. Both lawmakers - and many others in the region - have said they prefer legislation that would prevent courts from again intervening in the issue.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Montana has twice rejected attempts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare wolves recovered in the Northern Rockies. The proposed settlement was filed with Molloy March 18, and he held a hearing on it last week but made no decision.
Ten environmental groups signed onto the settlement with the administration last month following almost a decade of litigation. Some of the groups said they did so reluctantly, on the premise Congress would back down from bills considered to be dangerous precedents for undercutting the Endangered Species Act.
Wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota are also the subject of a new bill that would prohibit treating gray wolves as endangered species in these states.
The bill, called the Western Great Lakes Management Act of 2011, is sponsored by Rep. John Kline (Minn.).
If the act were to be approved, it would prohibit any wolf species, subspecies or population segment of canis lupus to be treated as endangered in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and the bill would also include the prohibition of wolves being treated as a threatened species, an essential experimental population or as a nonessential experimental population in those same states.
Reprinted in part from Associated Press and ashlandcurrent.com