The U.S. House passed a bill to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf. Precedent tells us that if this becomes law, it could prove fatal for wolf recovery efforts.

Long, long ago, gray wolves roamed and howled in every state in the Lower 48 (before states were states). The wolf howled in Alaska, too, and the animal’s population there remains healthy.

Sixty years ago, the wolf was intentionally exterminated from the continental U.S., except for small packs that managed to hang on in the northern parts of Minnesota and Michigan.

Today, wolves are in 13 states – California is the latest state that’s been reclaimed by wolves. They have slowly regained turf and in doing so have rewilded habitats. This recovery is in part augmented by an evolving appreciation and understanding of wolves and their importance in the natural world.

The recovery of wolves was also assisted by the Endangered Species Act, which protected gray wolves in 1974.

The big bad bill to re-eradicate wolves

But now a U.S. House bill essentially says ‘enough is enough’ and seeks to halt efforts to recover this wild animal. Introduced by Rep. Boebert (Colo.), the bill also tells us, or so it seems, that our evolving understanding of wolves remains a work in process.

On the last day of April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Boebert bill, voting to strip away Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves – no matter what the science says, no matter what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines, no matter what’s happening with wolf populations. It passed in the House by the hair of the little pig’s chinny chin chin, 209-205, and now is in the Senate.

What will happen if the bill becomes law?

Recent precedent suggests it won’t be pretty if protections are stripped. Look no further than the states where wolves were delisted in the past. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Wisconsin all unleashed devastating wolf eradication policies. When wolves temporarily lost their protections in Wisconsin, 216 were killed in less than 60 hours.

The Northern Rockies states are the one place where wolves aren’t on the endangered species list. The region has witnessed wolf kills not seen in a century. Bait, neck snares, helicopters and night hunting with spotlights have all been used to diminish wolf populations. Idaho’s law allows up to 90% of the state’s wolves to be killed.

Which states have wolves, and what’s needed to help the animal recover?

Here are the states with established or semi-established gray wolf populations: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Plus, there are Mexican gray wolves, a sub-population of the gray wolf, in Arizona and New Mexico.

Additionally, Colorado voters chose to reintroduce wolves, and some have now been released. Time will tell if they create an established pack, but the state certainly has the habitat and the backing of voters to make it happen. Finally, there’s chatter about whether Maine has wolves. Certainly it and other states have been blessed on occasion with a wandering wolf or two, visiting from somewhere else.

Animosity toward wolves is understandable. Think Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs and more. Wolves are predators.

But here’s the counter vision. Our lives are better in a world filled with beauty and nature. Howling wolves are a rich, important part of this vision. So let’s help the species continue to recover and rewild our planet.


Responses to "House Passes Bill to Delist Gray Wolves from the Endangered Species Act"

Write a comment