This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah congressmen/amateur wildlife biologists Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz want to prohibit the protection of gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act. And they're co-sponsoring legislation HR6028 to that effect. Congress should eschew this misguided bill and leave the science to the scientists.
Politics has no place in decisions regarding the protection of wildlife. But the wolf is a political animal. And it's being targeted now for the same reasons that the species was eradicated in the West by the mid-20th century.
Ranchers worry that the animals, as they expand their range, will devour sheep and other livestock. Wolves also give pause to hunters and outfitters, many of whom are unwilling to share their game with another apex predator.
Less than two decades ago, there were no wolves in the West to argue about. But the animal has made a remarkable comeback since its reintroduction in the northern Rockies in the mid-1990s. An estimated 1,600 wolves now roam Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and they're beginning to disperse throughout their original range, which includes Utah.
That return to the natural order of things poses a problem for those, like Matheson and Chaffetz, who want man to master nature, not live in harmony with it.
You can make an argument that the wolf has recovered to the point where it can be stricken from the endangered list. That's exactly what the Bush and Obama administrations tried to do in 2009, delisting the animals in Montana and Idaho while continuing protection in Wyoming, where the state's idea of management was allowing wolves to be shot on sight. But a federal judge ruled that the entire Western population of wolves is a contiguous unit and must be protected or delisted en masse under the Endangered Species Act, landing the wolf back on the list.
Dissatisfied with the judge's decision, and bent on keeping wolf numbers low, Congress is now poking its nose where it has no business. By delisting the animal via legislation, and allowing state wildlife officials to manage their numbers, Congress will subject wolves to even more intense political pressure. State agencies could cave, making decisions detrimental to the long-term survival of wolves.
Worse, by usurping the role of the federal Environmental Protection Agency in administering the Endangered Species Act, lawmakers would set a dangerous precedent. Congress would not only be removing science and inserting politics into the survival of species, it would take another act of a slow-moving Congress to save the wolf should its numbers suddenly decline.