Congressman Liz Cheney (WY) introduced HR 424 yesterday, a bill that would permanently remove federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Wyoming, and thus allow trophy hunting of wolves to immediately resume within the regions. To add insult to injury, the bill prohibits judicial review thus preventing any legal challenge.
In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) stripped federal protections for Wyoming’s wolves and handed management over to the state, a controversial decision, and contradiction of the agency’s stance in the past. Although USFWS had previously criticized Wyoming’s state wolf plan on the grounds that unregulated shooting in most of the state would reduce the state’s wolf population below federally required levels, the agency took a significantly altered position, announcing that these wolves no longer warrant protection under the ESA. The following day, management was handed over to the state and Wyoming’s inaugural wolf hunt commenced.
Wyoming’s wolf management plan calls for the state to:
- Deem wolves predators in 90% of the state (all but the northwest corner of Wyoming), where they could be killed by any means, at any time, without a license.
- In Wyoming’s northwest corner, right outside Yellowstone National Park, classify wolves as trophy game animals meaning they could only be hunted with a license.
- Maintain only 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Par
In September of 2014, federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming were reinstated after a federal judge invalidated the USFWS’s delisting decision. In December of 2014, federal protections were also reinstated for wolves in the western Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin after another federal judge invalidated USFWS’s 2012 decision to delist wolves in that region. In both cases, the federal courts held that the state management plans for wolves at issue did not sufficiently protect wolves. The court decisions restored federal protection for wolves in all four of the states.
If passed, wolf delisting bill HR 424 will nullify both of these federal court decisions and allow trophy hunting of wolves to resume under state management. There are 14 cosponsors of this bill so far.