EDITORIAL: Judge’s ruling on wolves defies biology

By December 31, 2014 February 15th, 2016 No Comments

Dec. 30–This time, the alarmists are not crying “Wolf.” They’re crying “Too few wolves.”

But the effect will be the same: a cynical public not only ignoring the calls, but also resenting the groups that keep raising false alarms.

Expect a backlash, in the form of Congress taking control of wolf populations out of the hands of activists and judges and giving it back to wildlife biologists, where it belongs.

It has happened before. It should happen again. And if it does, it’ll be well deserved.

“A federal judge has ordered that endangered species protection for gray wolves must immediately be restored in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan,” Minnesota Public Radio reported Dec. 19.

“The decision puts an end to controversial hunts in Minnesota and Wisconsin. … The Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare groups filed the suit last February. They argued Fish and Wildlife’s decision to remove the wolf from endangered species protection threatens the animals’ recovery in the Great Lakes region.”

Understand what has happened here. In the eyes of the duly charged regulatory agency — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — wolves are no longer endangered.

They’re no longer even threatened. The gray wolf population has recovered to such an extent that in June 2013, the Service proposed removing the animal from the list of threatened species throughout the United States.

In Minnesota, of course, that “delisting” happened years ago. Asked by the Duluth News Tribune if wolves are in any way endangered in Minnesota, federal wolf researcher L. David Mech had a one-word answer: “No.”

But this recovery in not only the upper Midwest but also the upper Rocky Mountain states — one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proudest accomplishments — isn’t enough for the Humane Society.

Instead, according to the society, the terms of the Endangered Species Act won’t be fulfilled until wolves are restored throughout their entire original range, which some say is the whole of the lower 48, presumably including Manhattan.

And U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington agreed. In effect, Howell declared “that although gray wolves aren’t biologically endangered in the Western Great Lakes, they remain legally endangered,” the Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette opined.

“In other words, she found reality illegal. …

“Now, we expect absurdity and fantasy in our wolf-management programs, but last week’s federal court ruling that returned Great Lakes wolves to the Endangered Species List is likely the silliest decision yet.”

Congress has intervened in this issue before. In 2011, lawmakers forced the delisting of gray wolves in Montana and Idaho in accordance with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s wishes, but over the court’s objections.

Today, lawmakers should offer up the same remedy, letting federal and state wildlife managers do the job for which they were trained: manage wildlife. When an animal no longer is either threatened or endangered, it simply doesn’t belong on the threatened or endangered species list, regardless of whether the animal’s numbers are back to where they were in 1492. Biological success trumps only-on-paper endangerment every time.

— Tom Dennis for the Herald

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