American Rifleman - July 2011 - 68

OFFICIAL JOURNAL

INSIDE NRA

Political report
Conservation Victory In Wolf Battle

V

ictories sometimes come in the
most unlikely places. The battle
between Congress and the White
House over completing the 2011 federal
budget risked a government shutdown.
But when negotiators reached an agreement, the bill also contained a little-noticed victory for wildlife conservation and
hunters nationwide.
NRA members who live or hunt in
the West are acutely aware of the saga
over delisting the gray wolf from the
Endangered Species Act (ESA). Wolf
populations in the Rocky Mountain and
Great Lakes regions are at least five times
larger than the original federal recovery
goals, surpassing the objectives of the
ESA. Today, wolves ravage struggling
wildlife populations all over the West.
Given that success, officials at the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service have attempted
wolf delisting repeatedly-twice in the
Northern Rockies and three times in the
Western Great Lakes. But anti-hunting
groups have filed relentless lawsuits, successfully derailing the delisting process.
Maybe it's just me, but it sure seems like
the anti-hunting groups only start tossing
around lawsuits when it comes to delisting
a species that will then be scientifically
managed by hunting. Where were the
lawsuits over delisting the bald eagle?
This year, NRA joined with a coalition
of other major hunting and conservation
groups to press for congressional intervention in the dysfunctional delisting process.
NRA OFFICERS
David A. Keene, PRESIDENT
James W. Porter II, FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
Allan D. Cors, SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
Wayne LaPierre, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
Edward J. Land Jr., SECRETARY
Wilson H. Phillips Jr., TREASURER
Kayne Robinson, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
GENERAL OPERATIONS

Christopher W. Cox, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
INSTITUTE FOR LEGISLATIVE ACTION

Against the backdrop of negotiations
over spending cuts, Western lawmakers
engineered an unprecedented victory for
wildlife conservation. For the first time in
history, Congress agreed to cut off endless litigation over delisting and enforce
the intent of the Endangered Species
Act-to delist recovered populations
using the best available science and
return them to state management.
Here are the details. The budget language mandates that within 60 days, the
Department of the Interior must reissue
the 2009 rule that delists the Montana,
Idaho, Utah, Washington and Oregon
wolf populations; and it returns management authority to states. Anti-hunting
extremist groups complained that the
language marked a triumph of "politics
over science," but just the opposite is true.
In truth, the language marks a victory
of science over frivolous lawsuits and
judicial activism.
And that difference has critical importance. The budget also includes language
to specifically block any further lawsuits.
It should be no surprise that at press time,
a court challenge to that restriction was
being filed. But at least for now, by taking
the courts out of the equation, Congress
is paving the way for states to begin-or
resume-managing wolf populations
through carefully regulated hunting seasons. Limited wolf hunting seasons were
successfully conducted in Idaho and Montana two years ago-only to be thwarted
by anti-hunting extremists in court.
As the true conservationists, hunters
understand that state game biologists
need to have authority to manage all the
species that co-exist in their ecosystems.
Despite all the pseudo-mysticism that
anti-hunting groups attach to the gray
wolf, it is a predator species that must
be managed like all others. And the wolf
differs from other predator species as a
killer of opportunity; wolves will kill even

by Chris W. Cox,
NRA-ILA Executive Director
when they don't need food. This kind of
routine surplus killing makes it even more
imperative that wolves fall under state
management authority.
The provision does not, however, mark
a comprehensive victory. It does not delist
all recovered populations of gray wolves.
The Western Great Lakes wolf population
was not included in this legislation. The
USFWS is pursuing a fourth proposed
rule to delist that population, now that
Congress has made a strong statement on
the issue.
The overall dynamic of the wolf debate
changed substantially with this legislation. Anti-hunting groups were running
scared ahead of the bill, with some groups
offering a weak settlement to the current
lawsuits in an effort to stave off Congress.
But the settlement, not supported by
NRA, was rejected just in time to pave the
way for congressional action.
If the anti-hunting groups insist on
blocking the delisting with another round
of lawsuits, NRA is ready to respond. We
are supporting H.R. 838, sponsored by
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., which would
delist the Western Great Lakes wolf
population in a fashion very similar to the
language in the budget bill. And we will
keep pushing for solutions wherever the
delisting of recovered wolf populations is
threatened by frivolous lawsuits. Reasonable people might think these career litigants would learn their lesson and finally
allow the ESA to work as intended, but
they have proven themselves anything
but reasonable.
Our work is never done and it is certainly not done here. NRA supports this
initial legislative step, and we will support
further legislation to delist all recovered
wolf populations. But the passage of this
provision marks an important turning
point for sound conservation science to
prevail over endless lawsuits, and that's a
victory that's worth celebrating.

N R A- I L A : ( 8 0 0 ) 3 9 2 - 8683 * NR A- I L A web s i te: w w w. nr aila. org

66 J

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American Rifleman - July 2011

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