Friday, April 15, 2011

Endangered Wolves Sacrificed in Budget Deal

wolves-photosAlthough Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama stood firm against Republican attempts to repeal clean air and clean water protections, wolves in the Northern Rockies weren't so lucky.
Under pressure from ranching interests in Montana and Idaho, as well as anti-wolf zealots in those states, Reid and Obama agreed to accept an amendment from Montana Democrat Jon Tester mandating the removal of grey wolves in Idaho and Montana from the endangered species list. For Obama, at least, the move isn't surprising: his administration backed the Bush administration's delisting of wolves even though it would allow the two massive states to cut wolf populations to as few as 450 individuals between them.
While the decision is bad news for the ecology of the Northern Rockies, where wolves play an important role in keeping elk and deer herds healthy, it also sets a disturbing precedent. Defenders of Wildlife president Rodger Schlickheisen told The New York Times:
In all the decades of the Endangered Species Act, Congress has never legislatively removed protections for any species. It's bad to do it for the wolf, and it could set a very bad precedent, replacing scientific determinations with politics.
The extraordinary thing about this action is that it was eminently preventable -- and may still be if environmentalists are willing to act a little more like wolves and less like lambs. The reality is that the American people love wolves and other charismatic predators -- and want politicians to protect them.

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