Posted: Apr 9, 2011 2:22 PM by Dennis Bragg (KPAX/KAJ Media Center)
Updated: Apr 9, 2011 9:45 PM
BOISE- One of the leading conservation groups who support a proposed settlement turning gray wolf management over to the states say legislation to delisting the wolves could really just mean "wiping them out".
The criticism came Saturday after Senator Jon Tester of Montana and Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho introduced formal legislation to take wolves in both their states off the Endangered Species List.
The measure is included in the bi-partisan budget agreement that could be approved by Congress this coming week. That helps to implement the settlement agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and some of the leading conservation groups.
One of the more far-reaching ingredients of the measure is an attempt to prevent the courts from overturning the pending settlement.
But one of the key players in the settlement immediately chastised the legislation, saying the settlement is now "voided by the budget provision."
"The tragic decision by Congress and the Obama administration to strip protections for wolves is a betrayal of the country's commitment to endangered wildlife," said Suzanne Stone, the Northern Rockies Representative for the Defenders of Wildlife.
"All those involved with passing this legislation have essentially sanctioned the management of wildlife based on prejudice and fear instead of science. Both the Idaho and Montana legislatures are moving statewide legislation to greatly expand wolf killing, and we can only expect that their unjustified campaigns to wipe out wolves will begin almost immediately."
Last month when the settlement was announced, Defenders of Wildlife called the agreement a "compromise", but said it was "necessary to help avert" what the group saw as a "disastrous assault" on the Endangered Species Act.
Yet now, the group says the new legislation heads the opposite direction.
"Congress is trying to force this through on a budget bill in a moment of incredible desperation. And for what? To appease a tiny group of the most radical hunters and ranchers who want to get rid of wolves entirely, said Stone. "Nevermind that the vast majority of Americans, including those of us in the West, recognize the wolf as a vital part of our wilderness and want wildlife decisions to be made by scientists, not politicians."
The proposed settlement terms is being reviewed by U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy two weeks ago, but he had yet to indicate whether he would be agreeable to approving the pact.