On wolves and the ESA, did the Humane Society of the United States overplay its hand?

The wolf drama continues.

The Humane Society of the United States this week put out a press release entitled, “Groups Petition to Reclassify Gray Wolves to Threatened Status Under Endangered Species Act.” According to the release,

HSUS and other animal rights groups want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to classify wolves as threatened throughout the contiguous United States.

Recall that in December, a federal judge returned federal protections to wolves in the Great Lakes states – Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. In Minnesota, wolves are classified as threatened, while they’re back to endangered in Michigan and Wisconsin.

As long as that ruling stands, farmers and ranchers have little recourse in dealing with problem wolves, and hunting and trapping seasons are out of the question. But don’t take the HSUS petition as a sign animal rights groups are softening on matters related to wolves. 

Take it, instead, as an indication of their belief they may finally have overplayed their hand. For years, animal rights groups have used legal technicalities to keep wolves federally protected. They’ve made a mockery of the Endangered Species Act and use it only as a means to their anti-hunting ends.

According to the HSUS press release, threatened status “would also give the Fish and Wildlife Service regulatory flexibility to permit state and local wildlife managers to address specific wolf conflicts.”

But that’s not what this is about. Their concern is that Congress will pass legislation to delist wolves in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. They want it to appear they’re trying to stake out middle ground, and that they understand what farmers and ranchers are dealing with. But they’re not, and they don’t.

Congress needs to act on wolves, or modify the Endangered Species Act. It should be a useful tool to help species recover, not something animal rights groups use simply to further their agenda.

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