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Senate Committee Passes Sportsmen’s Bill with Amendment to Delist Gray Wolves

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Just last month, Congress rejected a rider to the must-pass 2016 spending bill that would have directed the Secretary of the Interior to end federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Wyoming and thus allow hunting and trapping of those wolves to immediately resume. Today, the intent of that “delisting rider” has come closer to becoming realized.

This morning U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), successfully included an amendment to S. 659, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, which, if enacted and signed into law, would strip wolves of their federal protections in these four states. To add insult to injury, the amendment includes a “no judicial review” clause thus prohibiting any legal challenge.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee by a vote of 12 to 8 and it now goes to the full Senate.

In September of 2014, federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming were reinstated after a federal judge invalidated the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s (FWS) delisting of wolves in that state. In December of 2014, federal protections were also reinstated for wolves in the western Great Lakes region (including Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) after another federal judge invalidated FWS’s delisting of wolves in that area. In both cases, the federal courts held that the state management plans for wolves at issue did not sufficiently protect wolves. The result of these two recent court decisions is that wolves in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are back on the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) list.

Sen. Barrasso’s amendment nullifies both of these federal court decisions, directing the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the two wolf delisting rules that federal courts found illegal under the ESA. Thus, this amendment would hand wolf management authority back over to the very states whose management plans were found to be deficient – an action that would not only undermine wolf recovery, but also the ESA itself.