WI: Wolf-delisting bills pile up in Congress

Washington – Whether or not the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
removes gray wolves from the federal list of endangered species
this year might just be rendered irrelevant by that time, should
any of a number of federal bills do the job instead.

Most recently, a House-sponsored Interior appropriations bill
contains language that not only would “delist” the species in the
Upper Midwest, but also would create a barrier against animal
rights groups’ lawsuits that in the past have reversed the
process.

“For the anti’s (groups like the Humane Society of the United
States), it’s (the wolf issue) become a cash cow,” said Mark
Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters
Association.

There’s no good scientific reason for wolves to remain protected by
the Endangered Species Act, he said, but wolves have become a
fund-raising mechanism for such groups.

“We would love to see (delisting) go through proper channels,”
Johnson said, referring to the USFWS delisting process, which
currently is under way for a third time this decade. “But our sense
from history is that it’s not going to happen.”

The most recent language that would return wolf management to state
officials in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, is in the Interior
appropriations bill.

The bill number is HR 2584. It is the House of Representatives
version of the 2012 Department of Interior appropriations bill,
which includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget.

The bill has passed the House of Representatives and now needs a
vote in the U.S. Senate. It passed with an amendment introduced by
Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis, of Wyoming.

Lummis’s amendment reads: Hereafter, any final rule published by
the Department of the Interior that provides that the gray wolf in
(Wyoming) or in any of the states within the range of the Western
Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment of the gray wolf is not an
endangered species or threatened species under the Endangered
Species Act of 1973 … including any rule to remove such species
in such a state from the list of endangered species or threatened
species published under that Act, shall not be subject to judicial
review if such state has entered into an agreement with the
Secretary of the Interior that authorizes the state to manage gray
wolves in that state.

“The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation has been a very strong supporter
of this amendment and has been working hard on it,” said George
Meyer, WWF executive director.

“While normally we are reluctant to have legislators get involved
in wildlife policy issues better left to professional biologists,
we believe that our position on the Lummis amendment is consistent
with that policy.

In the past three delisting efforts that ultimately were derailed
by lawsuits from protectionist groups, biologists from Wisconsin,
Michigan, and Minnesota, as well as the USFWS, agreed that timber
wolves could be safely removed from the endangered species
list.

Meyer and Minnesota’s Johnson both agree that, if passed, the bill
would force the delisting of wolves.

Meyer and Johnson said the Interior appropriations bill is nearing
a floor vote; the more critical matter might be locating support
for the wolf delisting amendment in the Senate.

Both Johnson and Meyer suggest that sportsmen in Wisconsin,
Minnesota, Michigan, and elsewhere contact their U.S.
senators.

“The next action item is for Wisconsin citizens to contact Sen. Ron
Johnson and Sen. Herb Kohl to support the Lummis Amendment in the
Senate version of the 2012 Department of Interior appropriations
bill,” Meyer said.

Johnson said state management eventually could result in a managed
wolf hunt in all three states, one that would control the
population – like that of other big-game species – reduce conflicts
with humans, and bring revenue to the state DNR agencies.

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