Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Grey Wolf Recovery Continues

After considerable legal wrangling grey wolf populations in Wyoming have joined those in Montana and Idaho as being removed from the protections of the Endangered Species Act.  Just as when they were originally delisted in 2013, the state of Wyoming is preparing to open hunting and trapping seasons for wolves, but recovery of the species will march on.

After the initial reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996, the species has made a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction in the lower 48 states.  Recovery has been achieved in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, while wolves have established new packs in Washington and Oregon.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service grey wolf recovery webpage notes that up to 200 wolves in 34 packs now occupy Washington and Oregon as of the end of 2015 .  There are reports that wolves have begun to recolonize northern California as well.  And to top that all off, the first wolf in 100 years was confirmed in Nevada in November 2016.

The Endangered Species Act rewrote the rules of how society chooses to share our amazing landscapes with other species, even apex predators like the wolf.  It is a new chapter in what, until the last half a century, has has been a decidedly bloody relationship.
Until next time,
Cheers & Tight Lines,
Brad

email-conservationflyfisher@gmail.com
Twitter- @ConserveTrout

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Wolves Removed from the Endangered Species Act- again

The fate of grey wolves in Wyoming may be the single most contentious debate to have ever gripped the state.  Battles that erupted here in my home state have raged since the reintroduction of the wolf to Yellowstone National Park in 1995/1996.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service attempted to delist the species previously with the decision moving back-and-forth between the courts since 2011.  A brief article on the delisting can be found here and here.

More to come soon.
Cheers,
Brad


email-conservationflyfisher@gmail.com
Twitter- @ConserveTrout

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Whither the Endangered Species Act?

What a difference a few years can make in conservation.  In 2014, the country celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Today, there's an immense amount of uncertainty as to whether the act, hailed by none other than the United States Supreme Court as "the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species ever enacted by any nation," will survive the 115th Congress.

Weakening the landmark legislation has long been the goal of politicians that see the ESA as nothing more than an impediment to economic development.  There is little argument that listing of a species as either threatened or endangered imposes restrictions on habitat necessary for the survival of the species- this is one of the greatest strengths of the law.  However, it has become fashionable to dress arguments for weakening the legislation not under crass economic arguments, but in perceived efficacy of the law.

A hallmark of the arguments for weakening, or outright repeal, of the law is that so few listed species have been removed from the protections provided under the ESA.  My own home-state senator, John Barrasso published an op-ed in local papers this week making just such a claim.  What this argument grossly overlooks is that today we're in the throws of the globe's sixth great extinction and it took society far more than forty years to get in to this predicament. The extinction crisis predates even the industrial revolution.  Take a look at David Quammen's Song of the Dodo to get an understanding of how effective humankind has been in driving species to extinction prior to the rise of modern society.

Given the centuries over which the extinction crises has unfolded, why would we expect that recovery of threatened and endangered species in the U.S. to be somehow completed in only 40 years?  This is the question at the heart of the counter-argument to Senator Barrasso's op-ed.  The answer is that the argument for weakening or repealing the Endangered Species Act isn't about the rate of successful recovery of threatened and endangered species at all, its about the law's restrictions on economic development and land use.

So reviled is the ESA in some political corners that if there is going to be an organized push to weaken or abolish the law it will come during the 115th Congress, while the party that is anathema to the legislation's goals  control the levers of power in both houses of Congress and the White House.

Wait, you say, doesn't anything in the U.S. Senate require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, thereby serving as a check on repeal of the Endangered Species Act?  Yes, you're right, which is why I believe the 115th Congress is where we will see the death of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate.  So despised is the ESA by many in the Republican Party, that I can see  an outcome where they change the rules of the Senate with a simple majority vote, just as Democrats did in 2013, but instead of weakening the filibuster as Democrats did previously, the Republican majority will abolish it all together.  Such an outcome will not only allow for the majority party to unilaterally destroy the Endangered Species Act, it will also destroy the institution of the U.S. Senate as a bastion for the minority, an ideal that has been maintained since the establishment of our country.
Until next time,
Cheers & Tight Lines,
Brad

email-conservationflyfisher@gmail.com
Twitter- @ConserveTrout
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/conservationflyfishing