Approps Deal May Mean Bad Holiday Season for Wolves

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The holiday season is supposed to be about love, joy, and compassion for all living beings. So why, as the House and Senate negotiate an appropriations package for FY12, are some Members trying to insert a rider that would harm gray wolves and strip us of our right to judicial review of agency decisions?

Yes, this is the same rider the House of Representatives tacked on to the Interior appropriations bill, which never ended up going anywhere, this summer (Section 119 of H.R. 2584).  It would shield the final delisting rules for gray wolves in Wyoming, the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment, and, potentially, 29 Eastern states, from judicial review, meaning NO challenges regardless of the rules’ content.

By preventing challenges to these federal agency decisions, this rider takes away any incentive the Fish and Wildlife Service may have to improve these two rules.  After all, why should they?  No matter what the Obama Administration does, if the wolf rider becomes law, their final rules can’t be challenged, so why listen to comments from involved stakeholders?  This is exactly why judicial review of agency decisions is important.  Not only because it provides a remedy for citizens and State governments to address illegal federal agency actions, but also because it provides those agencies with a reason to take constituents’ critiques and suggestions seriously.

And since this rider would remove any incentive for Fish and Wildlife to improve its rules, we’d be stuck with the two proposed rules we have, which could result in the deaths of hundreds of wolves. Indeed, the proposed delisting rule for Wyoming, issued in October, includes a shoot-on-sight policy in 90% of the state.  Additionally, the Service’s proposed delisting rule for the Great Lakes, issued in May, reclassifies certain wolves in the eastern part of the country as a separate species (Canis lycaon), despite that the science regarding this is disputed.  As a result, if this rule were finalized in its current form, it would delist gray wolves in 29 Eastern states—something that a lot of these states (e.g., New York) are not too pleased about.

Shifting the separation of powers by taking courts out of the picture?  Inserting a provision that could result in the deaths of hundreds of gray wolves into a spending bill? Doesn’t exactly sound like the holiday spirit to me!