What Do Wolves Have to do With Passing a Federal Budget?Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on April 25, 2011
On April 9th, Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike hailed a “historic” last-minute accord to pass a federal budget and avert a government shutdown. In doing so, both sides did something else historic. They agreed to throw wolves, and one of our nation’s proudest and most successful animal protection laws, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), under the bus.
The ESA has served as the protection of last resort for hundreds of animal species whose very existence in the wild hangs in the balance. Crucial to the law’s success has been its reliance on science, rather than politics, to determine which animals need protection. That changed, probably forever, during the budget process when both Democrats and Republicans agreed to override sound science and public policy and remove ESA protection for wolves for purely political reasons.
The call for removal of wolves from listing under the ESA came from ranchers and hunters in several western states where wolves have only recently been re-established – at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars – after being completely wiped out earlier this century. When science didn’t back their arguments and the wolves’ protected status was repeatedly upheld, they turned to politics.
Buried in the mountain of pages that comprise the new federal budget is a provision that strips wolves of their protected status under the ESA. This is the first time in the law’s history that politicians have intervened to subvert the law’s intent. The effect on wolves will become obvious soon as struggling wolves succumb to bullets and traps. The effect on the ESA itself – replacing science with politics in decision-making – will render this shining achievement of animal protection law virtually toothless when it comes to protecting animals in the face of interests of politically powerful commercial lobbies.
For more information about this issue please see, ALDF board member, David Cassuto’s op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor.