GOP tries to shield anti-wolf bill from legal review

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When will the wolf battles end? Photo by USFWS.

Republicans apparently willing to use authoritarian tools in their war on the environment

By Bob Berwyn

The GOP-dominated Congress is flexing its political muscle with legislation that would override the Endangered Species Act by removing federal protection for wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming, making the animals vulnerable to state-regulated trophy hunting and trapping.

This isn’t the first time anti-environmental lawmakers have tried this, but what is new is that, this time, they’re trying to encroach on the longstanding system of checks and balances by passing a law that would prevent new judicial review.

The Fish and Wildlife Service removed protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes region (Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota) in 2011, and in Wyoming in 2012. In both instances federal judges overturned agency decisions for prematurely removing protections, failing to follow the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and ignoring the best available science.

This is how authoritarianism manifests itself in the realm of natural resource management and it’s a very dangerous and slippery slope — just ask people in Poland, Hungary and Turkey who have seen their basic civil rights eroded by similar moves on the part of the executive and legislative branches. As totalitarians take power, their first move is to weaken the courts and the media as a way of consolidating their influence over society.

“The new Congress is the most extreme and anti-wolf our country has ever seen, and members wasted no time in attacking endangered wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill promises to undo hard-earned progress toward gray wolf recovery that has taken years to achieve. Without federal protection hundreds of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan will once again suffer and die every year.”

Lawmakers have repeatedly tried to remove protections for wolves. Since the 2011 passage of a rider abolishing wolf protections in the northern Rocky Mountains, there have been dozens of legislative attacks on wolves in Congress. Yesterday’s bill is the first introduced in the 115th Congress to strip federal protections from endangered wildlife.

“Wolf recovery should be allowed to follow a course prescribed by science, not politics,” Adkins said. “This shameful meddling is harmful to wolves, harmful to science and harmful to our democratic processes.”

The anti-wolf bill was introduced by U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). Similar bills have passed the House in recent years but failed to clear the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House. This bill’s chances are considered much better with Republicans controlling the House, Senate and soon the White House.

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