Blame environmentalists, or blame Congress: either way, the wolf is delisted.
The law is intolerant of politics, and politics is intolerant of the law. When environmental advocates brought down yet another effort by state and federal governments to find a workable compromise to ESA implementation, ESA blawg echoed the courts and warned that only a settlement would work. Some environmental groups, to their abundant credit, tried to forge a creative path with the Obama administration, but the Court rejected the settlement. See ENS and New York Times. So, right now, raw and intolerant politics is winning, wheras tolerance, the Endangered Species Act -- and maybe the wolf -- are all losing.
Photo by Wyoming Fish & Game Department from University of Wyoming.
Buried in the battle over our absurd budgetary mess (uh, has anyone ever thought about both increasing revenues AND decreasing expenditures?) was a little line that delisted the wolf as an endangered species. Perhaps, as angry environmentalists insist, Congress has indeed overreached, and removed the science from the Endangered Species Act. See Sierra Club and Washington Examiner. But it is also true that wolf populations have increased and that aggressive litigious environmentalists overreached, forcing bi-partisan Congressional delegations to act. See Montana's The Daily Inter Lake.
As a result of this budget proviso, expected to be signed by President Obama today, Montana and Idaho will resume state management of wolves, with public wolf hunting seasons, allowing people to shoot wolves that threaten livestock or pets. See The Missoulian. The delisting does not include Wyoming, whose wolf management efforts were previously deemed insufficient by the federal government. See Billings Gazette.
Sadly, by effectively repealing the ESA as applied to canis lupus, Congress has opened the door to a whole new world. See New York Times. Whenever ESA implementation gets tough, whenever compromise is hard to forge, whenever science presents challenges, the easy option is Endangered Species Act repeal.
We've learned this lesson before. When conflicts over snail darters and the Tellico Dam could not find compromises, Congress created new ESA exemptions. Two decades later, the Clinton administration adeptly used the Habitat Conservation Planning process (to the dismay of some environmentalists). See, e.g Souza and Klyza, New Directions in Environmental Policy Making (2007). We need to learn the lessons again.
Environmental policy, like democracy itself, necessitates compromise. Compromise requires labor and intellect. By comparison, an exemption buried in a budget is the lazy way out. Sure, it solves the immediate problem. But the extinction of endangered species, one Congressional act at a time, cannot be our long term solution.