/ Opinions / Delisting the gray wolf

Delisting the gray wolf

September 11, 2020 by Tom Tiffany

For decades, natural resource and species conservation policies have been dictated by big city politicians with no skin in the game, activist judges in faraway coastal states and the ebb and flow of partisan politics in Washington. Meanwhile, rural communities with no say in the hopelessly skewed process are left to live with the consequences. 

The list of problems associated with the burgeoning wolf population in our state is long and well-known. Attacks on pets and livestock have become commonplace, and the implications are also being felt in the hunting industry. Thanks to misguided federal wolf management policies, game populations have declined — in some areas by as much as 90%. 

Taxpayers, too, are paying the price. Since the wolf was first listed, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources alone has forked over millions of dollars for wolf-related damages to sportsmen and livestock owners — public money that comes out of the pockets of working Wisconsin families. And there is no end in sight. 

In short, farmers, ranchers and hunters have seen enough real-world evidence to know that it is their lives and livelihoods being threatened — not that of the wolf. And the numbers continue to bear that out with each passing day. The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the wolf recovery goal as 100 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin. Yet that population had grown to nearly 1,000 — more than 10 times the initial recovery goal — by 2017. 

So why is the federal government continuing to interfere with state and local management efforts? Money, mostly. 

For too long, the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been converted by the radical environmental lobby’s campaign fundraising machine and lawsuit industry into a sort of statutory “Hotel California,” one where unelected federal officials and well-funded pressure groups see to it that animals check in to the ESA’s threatened and endangered list — but never leave. 

Not only does this destructive paradigm deprive species that actually need protections under the law from getting it, it fundamentally endangers the ESA itself by suggesting that the law is failing to accomplish its paramount goal: Species recovery. And that’s a point not lost on responsible scientists. 

Five years ago, for example, 26 scientists signed a letter to President Obama’s Interior Secretary, Sally Jewel, arguing that gray wolf populations have recovered and should be removed from the endangered species list. They noted that “(t)he integrity and effectiveness of the ESA is undercut if delisting does not happen once science-based recovery has been achieved.” The signers went on to add that, “One of (o)nce a species has recovered, management responsibilities should return to the states and federal funding should be applied to species that truly are endangered.” 

I could not agree more. 

It’s time to end the era of deep-pocketed, left-wing activists shoving their ideological agenda down the throats of rural communities from their luxury office suites in the San Francisco Bay area (not exactly a place that most Americans associate with pristine landscapes or a safe and clean environment). Instead, decisions about how to manage Wisconsin’s gray wolves ought to be based on sound science and made by people in Wisconsin, not by outside-the-mainstream groups who happen to be the highest bidders when it comes to campaign spending. 

It is also time to stop throwing public money away while liberal lawyers and lobbyists play politics with resource conservation and treat rural communities like a ping pong ball to be batted back and forth each time there is a shift in administrations inside the D.C. Beltway. 

That is why I Introduced the Managing Predators Act with my Minnesota colleague Rep. Pete Stauber. Our bill will empower officials in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wyoming to control the gray wolf population by permanently barring federal officials from interfering in state wolf management efforts. 

Enough is enough. It’s time to restore the responsibility for managing the gray wolf back to where it belongs: The capable hands of state policymakers and state fish and game agencies — who have already demonstrated that they are willing and able to do the job right.

Congressman Tom Tiffany represents Wisconsin’s 7th District.


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