The proposal from Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) to return wolf management to their respective states was included in a bicameral budget agreement to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year (E&E Daily, April 11). The spending bill is expected to be approved this week.
But while it enjoys broad support from hunters, ranchers and state officials in Montana and Idaho, the proposal would be the first time legislation has ever removed ESA protections for a species. It could threaten other wildlife whose protected status is under attack in Congress, groups say.
"It certainly sets a precedent, but probably more disturbingly, it sends a signal that, as far as the Obama administration is concerned, the Endangered Species Act is a bargaining chip," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Environmentalists said they are concerned lawmakers in the Republican-led House will hold other species and habitat protections hostage as the administration pursues other must-pass legislation, such as a bill to raise the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget.