Senate and House pass budget bill with wolf delisting rider.

President Obama will sign the bill into law and wolves will no longer enjoy the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

The House and Senate passed a budget bill which included the rider to delist wolves in Idaho, Montana and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah but leaves the status of wolves in Wyoming unchanged.  The rider, attached by Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Representative Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), mandates that the Secretary of Interior republish the 2009 delisting rule in the Federal Register within 60 days of passage of the bill and restricts the rule from being challenged in court.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

The removal of a species from the Endangered Species Act by Congress is an unprecedented move and is likely to be followed by more such moves in the future.  Congress has basically said that if a species becomes too inconvenient to industry then it shouldn’t be allowed protection and management of the species doesn’t have to subject to the best available science.

What comes next is anyone’s guess but surely there will be a great number of wolves killed in Idaho and Montana in areas where their respective game agencies have blamed wolves for declined elk populations. Those killings could begin immediately after the rule is published in the Federal Register and if they occur soon then they will undoubtably end up killing packs of wolves who are near their den sites.  Idaho has committed to maintain only 10-15 breeding pairs or 100-150 wolves in total and they recently passed a wolf disaster declaration which defines a wolf disaster as having any more than 100.  Even though that legislation is now moot because it only applied while wolves were not protected under the ESA, it is a signal of things to come from the legislature next year.

One thing should become abundantly clear.  The livestock industry, with the help of Democrats, did this. If anyone thinks that Democrats represent the interests of wildlife advocates or that the livestock industry presents anything other than a threat to wildlife then they are fooling themselves.  Now that you recognize this what do you do?  Do you hold them accountable?  Do you escape from your codependent behavior that so many of us used to avoid conflict with our families and understand that it is effective politically?  Really, this happened because the anti-wolf crowd was able to rile up people into a fervor using hyperbole and fear that was noticed by politicians who are only worried about their reelection.  That’s how politics works.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

At least one group is already blaming the non-settling groups for taking away “leverage to rally senators against Tester and Reid” even though the judge specifically pointed out that he did not have the discretion to “allow what Congress forbids”.  Of course I wasn’t pleased with the settlement deal and I don’t think that it would have provided any more protection than what wolves face today but I also don’t think that it is useful to blame anyone other than the people who orchestrated this gutting of the Endangered Species Act.  We could have that conversation but what purpose does it serve other than to feed one’s ego?

The real focus should be on making sure that wolves remain on the landscape and serve a meaningful role in the ecosystem and not just a token population that exists at artificially low levels.  I suggest that there are a few main targets to make sure this happens.  First, defund the Wildlife Services predator control program, they need to be grounded so that they can’t kill wolves from the air.  Second, conservationists need to recognize that the livestock industry is who orchestrated this and that they will be more scrutinized now that they have done this.  More focus should be placed on public lands ranching that depends so much on the good graces and taxes of the public. And Third, the politicians who take the votes of wildlife advocates need to held to account.  Western Democrats worked hand in hand with Republicans and the livestock industry to get this done.  They need to know that they will face primary challengers who are willing to scuttle their entire candidacy just to make the point.

Does the metaphorical Hayduke live?  I’m not so sure anymore.  Can he be resurrected?  I hope so.  As conservationists we have to give them hell.

Tester’s wolf rider is bad policy

Op ed. Tester’s ban on judicial review violates our First Amendment rights-

No doubt Senator Jon Tester faces stiff competition from one of most loathsome politicians of The West — a poser who claims to be a cattle and goat rancher but somehow became the 14th most wealthy member of Congress, Dennis Rehberg.

Keeping Tester in the Senate seems to trump all other concerns for Senate Democrats. Tester was the only senator who got a rider attached to the defeated Senate Democrat’s continuing resolution. His anti-wolf rider is now in temporary limbo, but will probably be back.

The author of the op-ed below argues that in addition to delisting wolves without so much as a hearing, by preventing any court from reviewing its legally, he is violating the First Amendment right that “Congress shall make no law” that restricts the right of American citizens “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

My view, if Rehberg gets elected, he will sell himself to the international corporations full time. We expect today’s Republicans to do that; but is Tester standing up? Is he speaking up for the teachers, fire fighters, unionized workers, the unemployed – people who Rehberg loves like he loves wolves?  What has Tester done besides crumble when a noisy band of right wingers tell us the elk are eaten and we will all soon have dog tapeworms?  In my view Montana, needs Democrats who will fight like they are in Wisconsin. I gave money to Tester in his last election, but now I send 5 or 10 dollars to the Wisconsin Democrats every day or so. It makes me feel much better.

Tester’s wolf rider is bad policy. By Michael Garrity. Helena Independent Record.

Montana wilderness, jobs bill added to Senate appropriations bill

Senator Tester’s massive forest bill has been added to Senate omnibus appropriations bill-

Every year the U.S. Congress’ procedure becomes more and more unglued. The reason for this is mostly partisan gridlock. So few freestanding bills (called regular order) are allowed by the opposition to pass or fail on a straight vote that extraordinary measures are now being taken if there is to be any action at all, even on necessary bills.

This year is ending up worse than ever.  This is no comment on the merits of Senators Tester’s wilderness/jobs bill.  We have discussed that earlier. That bill, however, largely thought to be dead, has been added to the Senate’s omnibus appropriations bill, and could become law with no direct vote ever having been taken on it.

The way the process is emerging is that almost all legislation for a year will come up in one giant bill that contains every other bill that has somehow found its way through the new, arcane process. The only votes that can be said to count will mostly be those on the giant measure.  What is in the giant bill will be for everyone to discover after the Congress is over, not before the legislation is passed!

Montana wilderness, jobs bill added to Senate appropriations bill. By Rob Chaney Missoulian.

Tester To Chair Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus

Western Democrats want to gut the Endangered Species Act

Jon Tester, the Democratic Senator for Montana, is facing a tough re-election battle in 2012 which may hinge on the wolf issue. He is desperate to find a solution which allows the State of Montana to manage wolves and wants to get something passed in the Senate during the lame duck session before the next congress is sworn in.

His proposal, also supported by Montana Democratic Senator Max Baucus who sold out on the health care bill, is to change the Endangered Species Act to allow distinct population segments (DPS) to be split along state lines to allow wolves to be delisted in Idaho and Montana and not Wyoming. While this may sound like an innocuous change to the ESA it could have devastating effects on the integrity of the ESA for other species. To use political boundaries rather than biological boundaries based on defensible science would allow the Interior Department to incrementally list or delist species based on politics rather than science, a goal of ESA opponents for many years. Essentially it would gut the Act and make it even an weaker tool for protecting endangered species.

But Tester said he thinks there is still a chance that the wolf issue could be dealt with this year. He favors some plan that puts management of the wolf back into state management in Montana and Idaho.

“That is one I would like to get done this lame duck session,” Tester said. “I think the state of Montana had a pretty good plan.”

Tester To Chair Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus – cbs4denver.com.