Weeks away from losing control of the U.S. House, Republicans pushed through a bill that eliminates federal protections for the gray wolf, which will allow hunters, ranchers and others to kill them, The Hill reported Friday.
> The Manage Our Wolves Act passed 196-180, mainly with Republican support. It would direct the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to end Endangered Species Act protections for the species and prohibit lawsuits challenging the removal.
> The GOP and many western states have long argued that four decades of federal protections have been too successful in bringing the wolf back from the brink of extinction, and the species now poses a significant threat to livestock, pets and humans.
Protections for the gray wolf were removed under the Obama administration, but a federal court ordered them reinstated in 2014 after determining the FWS had not shown the species was sufficiently recovered.
The Hill reported that the bill passed last week would allow for the killing of gray wolves unless states enact their own protections.
> Many Republicans speaking in favor of the bill framed the gray wolf as a violent predator and told stories from their districts of the animals killing livestock or pets or wreaking havoc in other ways.
> “If you live in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., it’s not a problem. If you live in Madison, Wis., it’s not really a problem,” said Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Ill.), the bill’s lead sponsor. “And you can make the argument that the pretty little puppy of the wolf, it’s so pretty and beautiful, and we have to protect it.”
> Duffy said removing protections would be “good for the environment. It’s good for the wolves, it’s good for the cattle, it’s actually really good for our deer population.”
Some Democrats, on the other hand, expressed the view that Republicans are exaggerating the problem and will only risk the health of ecosystems.
> Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said his district has a wolf breeding program, and it hasn’t caused the problems the Republicans warned about.
> “We are not having catastrophic predation on cattle in southern Oregon, and we could accommodate more wolves,” he said.
> “A lot of this is based on some sort of gut-level historic fear or hatred of predators that has been passed down from generation to generation. We can have a healthy wolf population and you can still do good husbandry for cattle.”