Reflections on the spending bill: cutting wolves to cut a deal

By now you’ve no doubt heard about the “rider” in the government spending bill that will remove wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act in most of the northern Rocky Mountains.  This is something that we have been fighting against for months and it’s a loss that comes hard.  It’s enraging and heart breaking at the same time.

And I am not saying that as a scientist and wildlife advocate who has worked hard the past five years to ensure that wolves received the protections they needed under the Endangered Species Act.  This hits me at a personal level far beyond what I do for a profession.  This hits me as an American.  

Yes, it’s true – because of my profession I know more about this than most people both in terms of the issue and the politics behind it.  But that is what makes me all the more disappointed in my government.   I am personally outraged and disheartened that my representatives – that, collectively, our representatives – chose to disregard the will of the American public, chose to disregard science and common sense, chose to sell out the Endangered Species Act – our nation’s most effective wildlife conservation law – for your standard back-room, political deal-making. 

I’ve never considered myself naïve – having fought political mischief many times before; but somehow this one is different.  This administration promised to usher in a new era of transparency and scientific integrity when it came to the Endangered Species Act; now it has become the first to allow a legislative delisting of a species - without debate and as part of a must-pass budget bill!  That is downright shameful.

We were all hoping for a “clean” spending bill – that is, one that didn’t contain any extraneous policy provisions and with all the fanfare last Friday over the possible government shutdown over policy riders there had been hope that Congress would stick to its job of funding the government and leave controversial policy out of it.  And while there were valiant and successful efforts to defeat many other harmful environmental riders, when all was said and done, the bill just wasn’t clean.  It wasn’t clean at all

Muttering to myself this past weekend upon hearing the news of the rider that would remove endangered species protections from wolves in the northern Rockies, I was taken aback when my son stopped me to ask, “Mommy, what do you mean ‘wolves aren’t clean’?”  I paused – staring at him – while trying to figure out how in the world to explain to a four year old that the politics of wolves is really dirty business.  At a loss, I gave him a hug instead and said, “I know, Babe, it doesn’t make any sense.”

              Image removed.

Photo credit: USFWS