U.S. Senate Takes Aim at Endangered Species Protections for Gray Wolves in Wyoming, Great Lakes

For Immediate Release

U.S. Senate Takes Aim at Endangered Species Protections for Gray Wolves in Wyoming, Great Lakes

‘Sportsmen’s Act’ Would Also Prohibit Regulating Lead Poisoning From Fishing Tackle, Allow Import of Trophy-hunted Polar Bear Parts

WASHINGTON - The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the so-called “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2016” today with the inclusion of an amendment from Sen. John Barasso (R-Wyo.) to permanently end Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes states.

“This is yet another special-interest driven attack on gray wolves that will lead to the vicious and cruel slaughter of thousands of these magnificent animals,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The American people know that the gray wolf is still just beginning to recover in places like the West Coast, southern Rockies and New England. Without healthy populations in Wyoming and the Great Lakes, this recovery will not happen.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stripped federal protections from gray wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota in 2011 and in Wyoming in 2012. Federal judges overturned both decisions for failing to follow the requirements of the Act, failing to follow the best available science and for prematurely turning management over to state fish and game agencies openly hostile to wolves.

A separate provision of the Sportsmen’s Bill would permanently exempt lead fishing tackle from any regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and wildlife at almost all levels. Animals are poisoned when they eat lost fishing weights, mistaking them for food or grit. Some animals die a painful death from lead poisoning, while others suffer for years from its debilitating effects.

“There is no safe level of lead in the environment. This provision will mean more poisoned wildlife, hardly what real sportsmen should want to occur,” said Hartl. “We phased lead out of waterfowl ammunition, paint, gasoline and toys. It’s time for Congress to stop catering to industry and start looking out for the health of ordinary Americans and our wildlife.”

A third provision of the bill would allow for approximately 40 polar bear trophies to be imported into the United States. When polar bears were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2008, all import of polar bear hunting trophies was prohibited. Despite having 16 months of notice of the impending prohibition, a number of hunters went forward with hunts anyway. The hunters were given repeated warnings that trophy imports would likely not be allowed into the United States as of the date the species was formally designated as “threatened.” If this legislation is enacted, it will accelerate the pace of killing of any species proposed for listing in the future.

“The Republican majority is just completely tone deaf to the brutal escalation of the illegal wildlife trade occurring around the world,” said Hartl. “Just six months after Cecil the lion was killed, and after another brutal year of elephant slaughter, it’s unfathomable that Congress would consider legislation that would incentivize indiscriminate killing of any species protected under the Endangered Species Act.”

Since the Republicans took control of the House in 2011 there have been hundreds of legislative attacks on the environment, including more than 177 on endangered species and the Endangered Species Act. In 2015 more than 70 bills targeted endangered species including the gray wolf, the American burying beetle and sage grouse. There was also legislation designed to limit the ability of citizens to go to court in defense of species. Earlier this year the Center released a report documenting a 600 percent increase in these legislative attacks since the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United ruling.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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