Wolf, © John Eastcott and Yva Momatiuk / National Geographic Stock

Bipartisan Agreement on Wolf Conservation – Who Knew?

Don Barry, Executive Vice President 

As toxic partisan politics in Congress continue to keep the federal government shut down, a remarkable bipartisan thing happened last Monday evening in Washington, D.C. during the public hearing that the Fish and Wildlife Service held on its terrible proposal to delist gray wolves throughout most of the lower 48 states. Jamie Clark, the president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, presented testimony, petitions and letters on behalf of the organization’s more than one million members and supporters in strong opposition to the proposal. I also had the privilege of reading a letter of equally strong opposition into the record at the hearing on behalf of myself and two other notable long-time conservationists, Nathaniel Reed and George Frampton.

gray wolf yellowstone

Gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park (© Sandy Sisti)

Two things bound the three of us together on that letter. First, we each had had the honor and privilege of serving as the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for the Department of the Interior, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, during critical periods in the history of the enactment and implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Nathaniel Reed played a crucial role in the enactment of the ESA during his service in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and George Frampton and I served under Secretary Bruce Babbitt in the Clinton administration during the period when gray wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone and Mexican gray wolves were reintroduced into the Southwest. During our 15 combined years of service overseeing the programs and policies of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we were staunch advocates for conserving the imperiled species of this country and in implementing the ESA faithfully and effectively.

The second thing that bound us together on that letter was our strong conviction that the Service’s gray wolf delisting proposal was premature, ill-advised, and was based upon a shrunken vision of what full recovery should mean for this important apex predator. For decades, the Service’s vision and interpretation of what recovery meant for endangered and threatened species had been optimistic and biologically ambitious. The recovery of the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American alligator and brown pelican are true recovery success stories under the ESA, but in each of those cases, the Service did not remove protection under the act until those species had once again recolonized suitable habitat throughout most of their historic ranges. That is the way that the ESA is supposed to work.

By contrast, however, we pointed out that the Service was now proposing to wash its hands of wolves prematurely, leaving huge swaths of unoccupied suitable wolf habitat in Colorado, Utah, California and western Oregon and Washington. It was also our view that the fact that wolves were abundant in Canada was irrelevant, since the purpose of the ESA, first and foremost, was to preserve biological diversity within this country.

Working with both Nathaniel and George on this letter was a reminder to me that all of our major environmental laws were enacted years ago with overwhelming Republican and Democratic support. Nathaniel Reed in particular, epitomizes the strong historic environmental record of the Republican Party in years gone by. The irony of all of this was not lost on me last Monday evening, as I was reading our bipartisan letter of opposition to gray wolf delisting just hours before the federal government began shutting down. It was a poignant reminder of how badly our country needs to return to the political environment in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when Republicans like Nathaniel Reed could work arm in arm with Democrats like Rep. John Dingell (Mich.) on a common environmental vision for something much better for this country. In this regard, the Service’s shrunken vision for wolf recovery is merely a reflection of the larger shrunken vision of political civility and bipartisan compromise that once was the hallmark of this country. At least with our letter, that spirit of political civility and bipartisan compromise was still alive.

11 Responses to “Bipartisan Agreement on Wolf Conservation – Who Knew?”

  1. Michele Capra

    Delisting any wolf from the endangered species list would be a horrific act of injustice to these beautiful animals.

  2. Kathleen Cheatham

    This is totally political and I believe it has everything to do with the ESA and the EPA and how some people with lots of money want them gutted. Wolves are an emotional subject and these people (starting with the Koch brothers) are just stirring the feeding frenzy of a minority of Americans. The ways and means that these wolves are now hunted border on insane and cruel.

  3. Alyssa

    This is absurd! Delisting the wolves is destroying a vital part of the ecosystem. I say that these magnificent creatures have every right to live on this planet, but some people are, apparently, too arrogant to see that.

  4. Michael Guest

    That Wildlife Service is wrong. The wolves still need to be protected everywhere. Further action must be taken before it’s too late. Stop harming these creatures.

  5. Diane Brickert

    Well I know this will outrage most of you reading this page, but I am a proponent of having a hunting season on wolves, at least here in Montana. While trying to reintroduce wolves into the lower 48 may have had good intent, the reintroduction of Canadian wolves into Montana, has been disastrous. They are huge and much larger than the native wolves that previously hunted this area. They have no natural predators and since they have litters, they proliferate much faster than the elk or moose or antelope or deer that have one calf a year, if that. If they are under stress they may not even get pregnant. Many of our ranchers count on their cattle births to make or break them financially for the next year and a calf is not match against a pack of wolves. Watching a helpless elk having his ass eaten out by a pack of wolves while it is still alive is as inhumane as anything I have seen in the world of wild animals. Having a dozen sheep slaughtered in one night and not eaten, just cause they can is another. So I would think very carefully before making a blanket statement about protecting wolves at any cost. In Montana we give out a certain amount of licenses and keep track of how many are shot. We know how many there are throughout the state and try to maintain a fair balance. But, even with hunting season and tracking, our wolf population is getting out of hand and the animals that the wolves hunt are disappearing at an alarming rate. Montana is the 4th largest state with almost the smallest population of any state. Just over 1 million. Our economy is limited and household incomes are among the nations lowest in spots. A deer, elk, antelope or moose in the freezer may mean the difference between a family making it through the long winter with food for the table or being hungry and needing public assistance. Hunting out here is a way of life and while there are poachers, most hunters respect the laws love animals and nature and want to protect our ecosystem, just as much as those who are against hunting. My neighbor is going to have to put her horse down because it is old and the wolves are coming around her place, because they know there is an animal they will not have to work hard at bringing down. That’s a shame too! When you can’t let your pet out to run in the yard or your child out to play on the swings, because the wolves will attack not just for food, but also for sport and just because they can, really leaves me no other choice but to support the hunting and culling of these packs more not less! Thank you for allowing me to comment .

  6. Jami

    Just wanted to say a humble thank you for the work you have done and continue to do for wildlife.

  7. Dr. Tony Povilitis

    1) Wolves need to remain on the ESA list where recovery is still needed across “significant portions” of the species’ range;
    2) Safe dispersal corridors are needed for wolves leading out of the Northern Rockies; and,
    3) Yellowstone and Grand Teton Park wolves need to be protected by a security zone for them on national lands around the parks.that disallows trophy hunting and trapping.

  8. michael alpha jones

    its totle b******* what people say and do to these animals they were here before us and should be here long after us . in way the wolf is a hell of a lot smarter then any human and should be protected humans can only fight with gun and hunt with them and do so for sport . wolves hunt for food and are very selective when doing so . by culling the herds of sick and and weak the boost the herd and people who talk s*** about defenders of wild life can go straight to hell I’m ready to start shooting the people who are going after wolves . and yes I’m pissed off

  9. wolf boy

    wolves are playful god built them in this world so you guys should be ashamed of yourself who ever is killing these por creaters

  10. Thomas Mullen

    I have a beautiful Siberian Husky, named KAYAH. As I look at her, every view leaves no doubt of her wolf heritage. Her muzzle, blue eyes, upright pointed ears, fur mained head, long sleek muscular body, and fluffy tail. She is every inch the domesticated descendant of the wolf. To kill a wolf is to kill their descendants. If you love your dog, you must support saving the wolf.

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