Gray Wolf at Risk of Losing Endangered Species Protections

The House advanced a bill that not only allows the iconic predator to be hunted but also significantly undermines the Endangered Species Act.

Jacob W. Frank/NPS

The House of Representatives took yet another swipe at the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on Friday when it voted to strip the gray wolf of protections across the continental United States—and prohibit lawsuits challenging those delisting decisions. “The last thing our government should be doing is undermining our most effective law for protecting our most imperiled wildlife,” says Nora Apter, a legislative advocate at NRDC, “and that’s exactly what this bill would do.”

The House advanced the Manage our Wolves Act (H.R. 6784) on Friday, which allows landowners and hunters to kill gray wolves unless a state has puts its own protections in place. The iconic American species once roamed across the entire country, but hunting, trapping, and habitat loss pushed it to the brink of extinction. Thanks to its Endangered Species Listing in 1974, the gray wolf has made substantial progress increasing its numbers, but it has yet to make a full recovery. Reversing its ESA protections could reverse decades of progress. “In case Congress needs reminding, we are in the middle of a global mass extinction crisis,” Apter says.

Congress, as well as the Trump administration, has launched unprecedented attacks on the ESA in the past year. In July, the Congressional Western Caucus introduced a group of nine bills that would weaken the bedrock conservation law. And the U.S. Department of the Interior proposed revisions to the ESA that would significantly limit protections for threatened species, which sit a degree below endangered. The ESA is one of the country’s most popular—and most successful—environmental laws and has helped bring numerous species back from the brink.

The Manage our Wolves Act will now head to the Senate floor for a vote. “The Endangered Species Act has seen such incredible success because it relies on science—not politics—in its decision-making and ensures citizens the right to enforce the law,” Apter says. “H.R. 6784 undermines those key traits, threatening the integrity of the Endangered Species Act as a whole. The Senate must protect this vital law for species conservation, by rejecting this extreme proposal.”

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