Congress to remove Michigan's gray wolves from endangered species list?

May 17, 2011

At the moment, the federal government manages the gray wolf populations in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. But federal officials say the wolves in these states are doing great, and they want to hand management over to the states.

This isn’t the first time federal officials have tried to take wolves off the endangered species list. Wolves were delisted in 2007... but that delisting was challenged in court by some environmental groups. And wolves were put back on the list.

Some members of Congress are trying to make sure these kinds of lawsuits don’t happen again.

Candice Miller represents Michigan’s 10th district. It’s in the Thumb. She just introduced a bill that would amend the Endangered Species Act... and remove wolves from the list. Her bill would make it more difficult for anybody to sue over that decision.

“You have a number of anti-hunting groups and they constantly tie these decisions up in court. I think this legislation is a huge tool to be used so the courts don’t have these things happening.”

She says her office has been approached by sportsmen and farmers worried about wolves preying on deer, moose and livestock.

Michigan’s wolf management plan does not call for a hunting season for wolves. The state legislature would have to decide that.

Essentially, Miller’s bill would take the decision to delist the wolves out of the hands of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and critics say it would make it much harder to sue the government over wolf management.

Noah Greenwald is with the Center for Biological Diversity. His group has successfully sued in the past to keep wolves on the endangered list. He calls Miller’s bill dangerous.

“Do we want every time a species conflicts with a moneyed interest or other politically well connected interest to then be removed by Congress simply because of politics? I don’t think so. I think we want decisions about the survival of our wildlife to be made by scientists.”

Last month’s budget bill included a rider that removed federal protection from the Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves. That was the first time in history that Congress removed Endangered Species Act protection for an animal.