Congress is poised to take over management of the Endangered Species Act for the first time, thanks to a little-noticed attachment that stuck like a burr to last week’s 11th-hour compromise to fund the federal government until the end of the year.
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, stuck what’s known as a “policy rider” into the budget that would authorize taking gray wolves in the Northern Rockies off the endangered species list. It’s unclear whether the delisting applies only to Montana and Idaho or, as in an earlier version of the rider, removes protections in the entire wolf reintroduction zone, which covers Eastern Washington and parts of three other states.
A spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee told the New York Times details of the rider were not available. If it covers the wider scope, state officials are worried.
“We only have maybe a dozen wolves,” in Washington, says Madonna Luers, a spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In a statement posted to his website, Tester writes, “It’s high time for a predictable, practical law that finally delists Montana’s wolves and returns their management to our state.”
The notion of Congress managing endangered species seems neither predictable nor practical to Carter Neimeyer, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist who is much-respected for his first-hand knowledge of wolf reintroduction.
“I don’t want to see wolves legislatively delisted, which is what the rider will accomplish,” Neimeyer said in a telephone interview Monday. “I have faith that state agencies can manage wolves, but what politics will force them to do is a real concern.”