There is a rule in the children's game that when Mr. Wolf calls out "Midnight!" all the players run back to their starting point. Only this midnight rule is no game.
With their eyes on the ticking clock, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced today another attempt to remove endangered species protections from wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. In doing so, the Bush administration has once-again shown their trademark approach to environmental issues: a blatant disregard for science and the law. In this case, they have also disregarded all of the hard work and careful negotiations that have made gray wolf recovery a success thus far.
To review, the Service removed endangered species protections from these wolves in the spring of last year, but legal action by NRDC and a coalition of partner organizations returned protections to the wolves when a court found the Service's plan to be legally and scientifically questionable. Rather than revising their plan, the Service simply re-opened their original plan for public comment and today issued an unprecedented and nonsensical rule that removes protections from wolves in Idaho and Montana while leaving protections in place in Wyoming.
What's more, the timing of the delisting only goes to emphasize the politics that are at play. It's as if Secretary Kempthorne is making one last closed-door favor to his home state of Idaho before heading out of power. Only this 'favor' doesn't help anyone.
It's obviously bad for the wolves and for anyone who cares about wildlife protections since the wolves have not quite achieved a recovered population. But I don't think this move helps the states either - or the ranchers and hunters who are in favor of having the wolves delisted. Putting forward a flawed plan that is almost certain not to hold up in court again, only fans the flames of emotions that run high on this issue - creating greater conflict and animosity rather than consensus on the issue of wolf recovery.
Ultimately, it takes all of us further away from the goal of having a recovered population of wolves that are no longer in need of endangered species protections.
So in its waning hours, rather than building public confidence in a legally and scientifically defensible plan, this administration has chosen to turn back the clock on recovering wolves. The only good news is that their own midnight clock is set to expire.
Photo by ovizoOn via flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/ovizo0n/2144130222/