Right now, Game of Thrones fans are howling over last episode’s long-awaited return—and then all-too-soon departure—of the beloved “dire wolf,” Nymeria. Unfortunately for wildlife advocates, the dire wolf’s fictional tale has real-life connotations: no sooner have gray wolves begun to recover in the United States, than politicians in Congress have moved to undermine their progress.
Today, a key Senate committee voted to move forward with the bipartisan “HELP for Wildlife Act” (S. 1514), a misleadingly-titled bill containing detrimental anti-wildlife provisions that would harm gray wolves and the Endangered Species Act more broadly. Frequently referred to as the “War on Wolves” rider, these provisions would block federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan) and Wyoming—a state that allows shoot-on-site killing in 85 percent of the state. To make matters even worse, the bill would prohibit judicial review of both wolf delisting decisions, making it impossible for citizens to challenge these delistings in the future.
Proponents of the “War on Wolves" rider argue that wolves in the Great Lakes states and Wyoming are adequately recovered, and assert that by returning these wolves to state management, this legislation would enable the Endangered Species Act to work as it was intended. This could not be further from the truth. Rather, by subverting the science-based listing process and undercutting citizens’ ability to help enforce the law, the so-called “HELP for Wildlife Act” would undermine the integrity of the Endangered Species Act as a whole.
Unfortunately, the bill’s anti-wildlife provisions have been paired with a number of reauthorizations for positive conservation programs. However, these reauthorizations enjoy bipartisan support and should be moved on their own without being attached to controversial provisions. Members of Congress should recognize that these positive provisions do not outweigh the bill’s concrete anti-wildlife riders, and should oppose the “HELP for Wildlife Act” on its merits; unlike dire wolves on Game of Thrones, once our wildlife disappears, it is gone forever. Now is not the time for playing games with our foremost conservation laws.