For Immediate Release March 23, 2023
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910, firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Bushyhead, WildEarth Guardians, (505) 660-0284, email@example.com
Roger Dobson, Protect the Wolves, (714) 750-6878, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristin Combs, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, (307) 413-4116, email@example.com
Keith Hammer, Swan View Coalition, (406) 253-6536, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936, email@example.com
Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 520-6003, firstname.lastname@example.org
Julian Matthews, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, 509-330-0023, email@example.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Western conservation groups today blasted efforts by “extreme” anti-environmental Members of Congress to target imperiled large carnivores for having their Endangered Species Act protections stripped by congressional fiat. The three bills would de-list currently protected populations of large carnivores, including the Northern Continental Divide grizzly bears (H.R. 1419), the Yellowstone grizzly bear population (H.R. 1245) and gray wolves nationwide (H.R. 764), and were debuted and debated at today’s House Resources Committee hearing.
“Congress designed the Endangered Species Act to make listing decisions based exclusively on the best available science, yet these three extreme politicians – without an ounce of scientific qualification between them – want to jump ahead of this science-based process and de-list wolves and grizzly bears based solely on politics,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “These anti-science attacks on wolves and grizzlies are a cynical attempt to turn over management authority to states that have extreme predator-killing agendas and policies.”
“These bills target the very law gray wolves and grizzlies need to recover,” said Joe Bushyhead, endangered species attorney with WildEarth Guardians. “This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Endangered Species Act. It has proven our best tool for tackling the worsening extinction crisis. Now more than ever, we must protect imperiled species from political attack and ensure the integrity of the Act itself.”
None of the three bills are expected to have any chance of passing the Senate on regular order, so their only chance of becoming laws will be to attach them as riders to other unrelated, must-pass legislation. Western conservationists blasted each of the three bills:
Trust the Science Act, H.R. 764, Rep. Boebert (R-CO)
This bill follows a well-trodden trail of failed legislation from past Congresses, once again seeking to remove Endangered Species Act protections from the gray wolf, nationwide. Its sponsor, Rep. Boebert, recently flaunted her extinction agenda for wolves at a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hearing, claiming that Colorado “was better off without these predators killing our sheep, cattle, deer and other wildlife.”
“It is deeply offensive that Congress is even considering this attack on wolves, when tiny wolf populations from Maine to California are still struggling to become established,” said Roger Dobson, a Cowlitz Tribal Member and Director of Tribal Cultural Resources for Protect the Wolves. “Wolves are sacred to Indigenous peoples, yet this proposed legislation is a bald attempt to clear the way for a return to the eradication policies of the past, which targeted not just wolves, but Indigenous peoples as well.”
Grizzly Bear State Management Act, H.R. 1245, Rep. Hageman (R-WY)
Posing a separation of powers issue, this bill seeks to reverse a 2019 court ruling that restored Endangered Species Act protections to the grizzly bear Distinct Population Segment in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. These bears were stripped of their ESA protections in 2018, which was immediately challenged by no less than five coalitions of tribal and conservation groups. The judge reversed the de-listing, ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had ignored the best available science, and in particular pointing out that this population would not be recovered until connectivity was re-established with the Northern Continental Divide grizzly population.
“The conversation needs to stop being about delisting grizzlies and focus on how to reduce mortalities and lessen the threats to the species,” said Kristin Combs, Executive Director for Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “Wyoming has proven they don’t know how to manage large carnivores. Just look at how wolves are killed statewide year-round. Every piece of evidence shows that grizzlies will not be tolerated in any other part of the state than the Northwestern corner and will be liberally killed elsewhere. State management of grizzlies is a recipe for setting back all the recovery gains made in the last 50 years.”
“Congress needs to focus on how we can truly recover grizzly bears based on science in the lower 48 states, which won’t happen until there is one connected population of grizzly bears and only then should grizzlies be delisted,” said Mike Garrity of Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Instead, this clown car Congress wants to delist grizzlies for political reasons so state wildlife agencies can open them up to slaughter like they have done to wolves.”
Comprehensive Grizzly Bear Management Act, H.R. 1419, Rep. Rosendale (R-MT)
This bill would force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a de-listing decision for the grizzly bears of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. State policies in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming lean heavily on killing grizzly bears as the preferred solution to most human-grizzly conflicts, placing little responsibility on local populations to adopt coexistence strategies. The Northern Continental Divide grizzly population is the central hub for restoring connectivity to grizzlies in the Selkirk Mountains, the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness complex, and the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, yet this bear population remains isolated due to continual harassment and removal of grizzly bears attempting natural dispersal movements to other grizzly habitats.
“Enos Mills first called for protection of grizzly bears in his 1919 book ‘The Grizzly,’ as he watched them being exterminated from Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and California, but they didn’t get Endangered Species Act protection until 1975 when the few remaining bears had been driven back into areas around Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks,” noted Swan View Coalition Chair Keith Hammer. “The slight increase in bear numbers from 2% to 4% of what once was, is not a legitimate recovery. Until our selfish culture and governments wise up and show some true compassion and generosity to wildlife, grizzlies need the protection of the ESA.”
The groups called on Congress to kill these three misguided bills.
“As a member of the Nez Perce Tribe and having worked with our Tribal Elders and others on the issues of wolves and grizzly bears I see how critical these two species are and have been to the Nimiipuu as we lived besides the wolves and grizzly bears as we hunted, fished and gathered in our Treaty area and traditional areas,” said Julian Matthews, Coordinator of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment. “I feel that these two species should not be delisted as it seems the states will then allow them to be exterminated based on the economic issues that farmers and ranchers and the states use. I do not agree with simply delisting the wolves or grizzly bears as they are a part of the Mother Earth, and with the states taking over management if delisting occurs the future and fate of wolves and grizzly bears won’t be good.”
“These three bills are an outrageous affront to conservation efforts in our country,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “The American people don’t want less protection for these imperiled species, they want more. We live in an era of environmental devastation and mass extinction, and these small populations of wolves and grizzly bears need to be fiercely defended from this anti-science lunacy.”