Survival of Gray Wolf species can’t be left to Legislators
February 17, 2011
Three bills have been introduced in Congress by representatives of the Western Caucus that seek to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) so that the Act does not apply to the gray wolf.
Wolves have been an integral part of North American landscapes for millions of years and are considered an important “keystone predator” that deserves a certain future in this country.
The immediate consequences of this legislation would be wolf-hunting seasons in the West that many Americans who vehemently oppose this action would pay for. Almost half of the wolves recently brought back from the brink of extinction would be killed, thus reducing them to a remnant, token population, unable to fulfill their biological role in our forests and subject to a possible second extinction.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service themselves recently called the Mexican gray wolf “probably the most endangered land mammal in North America.” The safety net of the ESA may be the only thing standing in the way of the extinction of this species!
The ESA was passed because Americans believed that protecting our wildlife was an obligation to future generations. It included wildlife ranges irrespective of political boundaries because these habitats, which are vital to species survival, cross arbitrary lines.
However, many of the industries and special interests responsible for the original habitat destruction that inspired the ESA have been fighting for years to destroy the Act itself, and have now seized on the wolf as the excuse to finally exterminate it.
In doing so, they and their allies are violating a decades-old bi-partisan consensus among Americans that wildlife and ecologies are invaluable and worth protecting. Just as the quality of our air and water cannot be left to the individual states, neither can the continued healthy survival of our vital and endangered wildlife.
The ESA is one of our most respected environmental laws. Its power lies in the independent, scientific consultation at its heart. It’s not the role of Congress to decide which species should receive protection and which shouldn’t. In fact, Congress has never successfully legislated a species-specific decision under the ESA. Wolves should not be the first.
That is a decision that should be made by independent science. To legislate such a decision would weaken the Act and set a dangerous precedent that could lead to more native fish, wildlife and plants being wrongly stripped of protection.
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