A new bill introduced in Congress today would once and for all transfer management of recovered gray wolf populations back to state wildlife agencies in Wyoming and the Great Lakes region.
H.R. 884 is cosponsored by members of Congress from the relevant states from both parties. The original sponsors include Representatives Ribble (R-WI), Lummis (R-WY), Benishek (R-MI), Peterson (D-MN), Duffy (R-WI), Emmer (R-MN), Grothman (R-WI), Huizenga (R-MI), Kind (D-WI), Kline (R-MN), Ryan (R-WI), Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Simpson (R-ID), Walberg (R-MI), and Walz (D-MN).
Several of the sponsors are members and past leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus. Rep. Tim Walz is currently a co-chair of the caucus.
Wolf management authority for years has been bouncing back and forth between state and federal agencies in these two regions as the wolf populations there have thrived and spread. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly found the species to be recovered, sustainable and ready for science-based management by the states. Courts have repeatedly negated these findings based on lawsuits over procedural technicalities.
Congress previously acted on this same problem with bipartisan support to establish state management in Montana and Idaho in 2011. Today's legislation renews that effort for Wyoming and the Lake States. Boone and Crockett helped develop the 2011 bill, which also appears in H.R. 884.
"It is a sign of our times that scientific decisions by the Fish and Wildlife Service can be repeatedly reversed in court by those who disapprove of the decision," said Bob Model, co-chair of the Boone and Crockett Club's Policy Committee. "Preferences should not trump science. It is past time for Congress to stand behind the science, reinstate the decisions, and cut off further lawsuits - and that's what H.R. 884 does."
In 2011, when Congress last acted to reinstate management authority to Idaho and Montana, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had not yet transferred management to other states. Since then, the additional transfers have occurred and, just as in the past, procedural litigation reversed them. It is time again to reinstate the scientific decision of the Fish and Wildlife Service and stop the legal gamesmanship.
Both Idaho and Montana have been successfully carrying out their management strategy of balancing the needs of wolves and people since 2011. Wolf populations in these states remain sizable, sustainable, and stabilized.
In reinstating state management in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, H.R. 884 also makes these reissued rulings no longer subject to judicial review by district courts. The bill does not modify the Endangered Species Act, nor does it prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from deciding to reimpose federal protection for the gray wolf in the future if it determines that is necessary.
Model added, "At the end of the day, people who live with wolves want to do what's right for wolves and people. This new bill will allow science-based state management to work for both."