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Science should determine federal listing of gray wolf

 


The recovery of the gray wolf is a success story for the Endangered Species Act, and the best available science should determine whether species remain listed. I am proud that the House voted last week to approve of legislation I co-introduced with Rep. Sean Duffy: H.R. 6784, the Manage Our Wolves Act, which will return management of the gray wolf species to the states. The states are best equipped to provide more effective and accountable management that responds to the needs of the ecosystem, other species, and local communities.

In 2013, the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) published a proposed rule that would have removed the gray wolf from the “List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.” This determination was made after Fish & Wildlife evaluated the classification status of gray wolves currently listed in the contiguous U.S. under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and found the “best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the currently listed entity is not a valid species under the Act.”

The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to recover species to the point where they are no longer considered “endangered” or “threatened.” The gray wolf is currently found in nearly fifty countries around the world and has been placed in the classification of “least concern” for risk of extinction by the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation Nature.

Unfortunately, fringe environmentalist efforts have stalled any action that would move forward to delist the gray wolf.

In Washington, the gray wolf is not federally listed in just the eastern third of the state, forcing FWS and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to rely on an arbitrary political boundary when delineating and managing the species. The state’s gray wolf management plan is working toward the objective of naturally re-establishing a sustainable population across the state while authorizing managing tools to address conflicts with livestock and other wildlife. The plan was adopted in 2011, with input from an advisory group representing diverse stakeholders and after extensive public review. By following the state’s plan, 19 wolf packs now thrive in areas managed by the state. Federally delisting the gray wolf will allow the state to effectively manage the species statewide.

As we all know, wolves don’t respect boundaries or borders. The arbitrary nature of this current status of the law is broken, and it is impairing the ability of fish and wildlife managers on the ground to properly manage the species as well as its ecosystem, including the harm it poses on other indigenous species.

Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, must act. My legislation with Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) directs the U.S. Department of the Interior to follow through with the proposed rule and delist the gray wolf from the list of endangered species. We have a responsibility to protect the incredibly diverse species both in Washington State and across the country. These efforts to protect our wildlife species must be based on sound science and an open, transparent process. Unfortunately, that is far from the case when it comes to the process dictating endangered species policies, particularly in this case of the gray wolf.

For years now, Washington’s Department of Fish & Wildlife has asked the federal government to de-

list the gray wolf and provide relief from the burdensome, broken process dictating species management.

As a farmer and life-long resident of Central Washington, I consider myself a conservationist and steward of our rich natural heritage — and that includes our incredible wildlife. State governments are fully qualified to responsibly manage gray wolf populations, and it is time to allow states to meet the needs of local communities, ranchers, livestock, wildlife populations, and ecosystems.

This column is adapted from a speech Rep.

Newhouse delivered on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on November 14, 2018.

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