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House votes to strip ESA wolf protections, block judicial oversight

For Immediate Release

November 16, 2018


Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives voted 196 to 180 along heavily partisan lines to approve a bill (H.R. 6784) to de-list the gray wolf nationwide under the Endangered Species Act, and to block courts from considering violations of federal law for wolves under the Endangered Species Act. The Mexican wolf subspecies is specifically excluded from this legislation.

“The Endangered Species Act requires that when species reach the brink of extinction, decisions are made solely based on the best available science, yet today’s vote shows the hubris of putting politicians with no scientific background in charge, wresting these critical decisions away from professional scientists,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project.

Wolves currently are missing from more than 83% of their original native range. “Wolves are just beginning to recolonize their original habitats in places like Oregon and California, and remain completely absent from large expanses of suitable habitat like the Colorado Rockies,” said Molvar. “Wolves are necessary to restore the natural ecological balance that has been missing for more than a century.

Despite some regionally-specific decisions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has never rendered a de-listing decision that would apply to the entire lower-48 states, which is what the bill seeks to do. Thus, there is no scientific basis for the proposed law, a fundamental requirement of ESA decisions. The bill sparked lively debate on the House floor.

“Delisting decisions are best kept in the hands of scientists,” said Rep. Beyer (D-VA). “Someday, I would like to see wolves in Virginia. But for now it is important to protect the merely 6,000 that we have in the lower 48 today.” Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA) added, “Delisting is premature and ill-advised.”

Rep. DeFazio (D-OR) presented a chart showing that 74% of cattle losses are due to health issues, 7.8% due to weather, 0.2% due to wolves. He told of a rancher who had a calf killed by wolves, and said, “It’s sad that that calf didn’t get to grow up and go to the slaughterhouse.” But, he concluded of the wolf de-listing bill, “It’s going nowhere in the Senate.”

Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) reflected on the widespread popularity of the ESA among the American public, and its effectiveness. “The ESA has a near-perfect record of saving imperiled species,” said Rep. Grijalva. “These types of attacks on the ESA will not be legitimized in the next Congress.”

The bill passed this morning also blocks the delisting of wolves from being challenged in court, preventing independent judges from overturning decisions that violate federal law.

“The State of Wyoming has been a bloodthirsty opponent of wolf recovery from day one, with a wolf management plan that turns 85% of the state into a free-fire zone where any wolf can be shot at any time without season limits, without bag limits, and lacking any pretense of wildlife management principles,” said Molvar. “If there is one state in the Union that needs the federal court system looking over its shoulder, Wyoming is that state.”


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