In a move fiercely condemned by conservation experts and advocates, House Republicans continued their crusade against "arguably the most important law in the United States for conserving biodiversity" and voted mostly along party lines on Friday to strip federal protections from gray wolves.
Noting that "the American people overwhelmingly support the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the magnificent animals and plants it protects," Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity declared, "This final, pathetic stab at wolves exemplifies House Republicans' longstanding cruelty and contempt for our nation's wildlife."
BREAKING: House just passed a bill to remove federal protections for the gray wolf — allowing ranchers & hunters to kill them.
— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) November 16, 2018
Under the Manage Our Wolves Act (H.R. 6784), introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), all gray wolves in the lower 48 states—except for Mexican gray wolves—will be removed from the federal list of endangered and threatened species.
"It's a travesty that a House bill introduced in September with just four cosponsors secures floor time to put these imperiled wolves in the crosshairs of trophy hunters and trappers."
—Sara Amundson, Humane Society Legislative Fund
"It's a travesty that a House bill introduced in September with just four cosponsors secures floor time to put these imperiled wolves in the crosshairs of trophy hunters and trappers," Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said in a statement.
"The American people have demanded that the Fish and Wildlife Service make a decision based upon scientific evidence that is open to a public comment process," she pointed out. "Instead, 196 members of Congress passed a bill to deny ESA protections to gray wolves based upon political motivations."
A provision in the bill bars judicial review, meaning that if it passes the Senate and President Donald Trump signs it into law, the measure cannot be overturned in court. Legal challenges have blocked past attempts to delist the species.
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While hunters and ranchers worried about livestock have long fought for the right to kill gray wolves, pressuring Republicans to ease restrictions, as Marjorie Mulhall of Earthjustice explained, "thanks to the Endangered Species Act, gray wolves are recovering from the centuries of trapping, hunting, and poisoning that brought them to the brink of extinction in the continental U.S."
However, as Mulhall noted, "these icons of the wild are still missing from...much of their still-suitable habitat, and have they been subjected to hostile killing practices in places such as Wyoming where they have already lost their Endangered Species Act status. Gray wolves continue to need federal protections."
Although House Republicans have been working to cripple the ESA since Trump took office, Hartl expressed hope that such efforts will be far less successful in the next congressional session, which begins in January. "We don't expect to see these disgraceful anti-wildlife votes next year under Democratic control of the House," he said.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, condemned the vote.
The #EndangeredSpeciesAct works, and it's protected some of our most iconic animals that were on the brink of extinction. House Republicans are voting today to destroy the law and delist the gray wolf. What species will they target tomorrow? #StopExtinction pic.twitter.com/gNhDe7u2Zf
— Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) November 16, 2018
"This bill is a sad, insulting waste of the country's time, especially with California on fire, and even Republican leaders know it," Grijalva said in a statement Thursday. "At this very moment we're seeing some of the deadliest wildfires in our nation's history, with lives lost and property damage continuing to mount, and here we are voting on whether we should make it easier to kill gray wolves."
Today would have been a great day to reauthorize #LWCF, which Republicans let expire in September for the second time on their watch. Instead, they forced a vote on a hugely unpopular bill to delist & kill gray #wolves. This is a sad waste of time. #StopExtinction #SaveLWCF pic.twitter.com/WmG8wyd1HJ
— Nat Resources Dems (@NRDems) November 16, 2018