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Congress Renews Efforts To Remove Gray Wolf Protections

2 Measures Could Affect Endangered Species Status Of Wolf In Wisconsin

Gray wolf
Gary Kramer/AP Photo

Efforts in Congress are gearing up again to knock the gray wolf in Wisconsin off the endangered species list.

There are two measures that could potentially help re-open the door to wolf hunting in the state.

One is a House of Representatives funding bill for the U.S. Department of Interior that would de-list the gray wolf within 60 days of passage and block the department from spending money to enforce Endangered Species Act protections for the wolf in the lower 48 states.

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Bob Dreher, of Defenders of Wildlife, said the department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would basically have to ignore the wolf. “It’s like having a patient in the emergency room, and ordering the doctors in the emergency room not to treat it,” Dreher said.

The other legislation is a U.S. Senate bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, being discussed next week by a Senate committee.

It would restore a previous U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services decision to de-list wolves in the western Great Lakes region.

Baldwin’s office issued a statement Wednesday evening from the senator:

“Due to the hard work and patience of people across our state, the wolf population has recovered in Wisconsin. I believe we should acknowledge this success by de-listing the wolf from the Endangered Species List and returning its management back to the state of Wisconsin. It’s my hope that state officials will work with the public to ensure management of the wolf addresses conflicts with people and livestock, while also upholding our Wisconsin values of protecting, treasuring and coexisting with nature.”

The office of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, who also favors de-listing the wolf, said in an email Johnson would support the Senate bill.

Dreher said Congress should stay out of the debate. “It’s a fairly heavy-handed interference with the way the Endangered Species Act is supposed to work and in particular, it’s I think really a regrettable instance of Congress depriving the American public of opportunities for judicial review,” Dreher said.

According to Defenders of Wildlife, congressional action on the wolf may be moot if a federal appeals court in Washington removes the wolf in the western Great Lakes from protected status. A decision is expected soon.