Ag Policy Blog

Lots of Howling in Gray Wolf Debate

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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The gray wolf has been the subject of several court battles over whether the animals should remain protected under the Endangered Species Act. (Photo by Gary Kramer, US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Sorry, but I just couldn't pass up that headline.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., was among those who took to the floor of the House of Representatives on Friday and backed a largely Republican effort to remove gray wolves from Endangered Species Act listings in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Peterson, expected to retake the gavel of the House Agriculture Committee in January, laid into environmental interests that have taken over the Democratic Party and sought to repeatedly block federal efforts to delist gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act. He was speaking about H.R. 6784, the "Manage Our Wolves Act."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., passed the House on Friday in a 196 -180 vote with nine Democrats voting with 187 Republicans on the bill while 12 Republicans voted with 168 Democrats against it. There were 54 lawmakers who did not cast a vote on the bill.

Environmental groups criticized the bill as an effort by Republicans to help ranchers in the lame-duck session while attacking wildlife. Peterson saw it differently and spoke passionately in support of the bill.

“I rise in support of the bill. I have to say in my 28 years in this body I have never seen so much nonsense, misinformation, and propaganda put out on a bill as being put out on this one,” Peterson said in his floor speech. “We followed the Endangered Species Act. We did what was said, the scientists said we recovered and they delisted the wolves. These were scientists that did it, it wasn’t any politician. You had a group out there, these extreme environmentalists and others who have captured our party, went to a judge in Washington D.C. that has no idea what’s going on at all and convinced that judge that the wolves had not recovered because they had not been reestablished all the way to Des Moines, Iowa." He added, "You want some wolves in Des Moines, Iowa? I don't think so and there weren't wolves in Des Moines, Iowa, in the first place."

The bill seeks to prevent federal court rulings like a 2014 decision that forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to relist gray wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin under the Endangered Species Act. U.S. Fish and Wildlife had moved in 2011 to remove the Endangered Species Act listing because of repopulation. Similar cases have played out in Wyoming and Rocky Mountain states as well as wolf populations have returned and U.S. Fish and Wildlife sought to delist the animals only to face legal battles from environmentalists in court. Nationally, U.S. Fish and Wildlife is now preparing to remove Endangered Species Act protections from wolves because of their recovery but facing similar push back from advocates for the wolves.

Peterson added that he has more wolves in his district than any other congressional district in the U.S. One of his neighbors had lost four cattle and a dog to wolf attacks. If some of his colleagues who opposed the bill want some wolves, he'd be happy to help send some to their districts "and let them eat some of your fancy little dogs and see how long that goes on before your constituents want you to do something about it."

US Fish and Wildlife Service reports Minnesota, in the last survey of wolves, had a population of nearly 2,300 wolves while Wisconsin had nearly 900 wolves, which were the most in the lower 48 states. Alaska has a significantly higher population than any other state, ranging from 7,700 to 11,200.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

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11/30/2018 | 3:30 AM CST
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