Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released a bipartisan letter co-signed by 73 House members urging Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to continue critical protections for endangered gray wolves. The letter comes on the heels of an independent peer review that found the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) failed to use the “best available science” when it drafted a  proposed rule that would remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states.

In the letter, the members write, “Because it is not based on the best available science, the proposed rule undermines decades of conservation work done to protect the gray wolf, and sets a bad precedent for future ESA delistings. Further, it would stifle gray wolf recovery at a time when conservation gains are only nascent in the Pacific Northwest, and recovery has yet to begin in California, Colorado, Utah, and the Northeast, where scientists have identified a significant amount of suitable habitat that would support wolf populations.”

The members ask Secretary Jewell and the Service to rescind the proposed rule immediately. In February, the Service released a long overdue peer review from an independent, objective panel of top experts in the fields of ecology, taxonomy, and genetics. These scientists were tasked with evaluating the proposed delisting and the science behind it. The reviewers unanimously found the Service did not use the “best available science” when they decided to remove the gray wolf from protections under the ESA. The reviewers said that the Service accepted unproven science uncritically while they disregarded conflicting data outright. 

“I’ve long said that ESA decisions should be based on science, not politics, and the experts who have reviewed the so-called science behind the proposed rule have spoken. The peer review leaves no option but for the Service to rescind the proposed rule and continue federal protections that are essential to the long-term survival and recovery of gray wolves. Continued protection under the Endangered Species Act is the only way that gray wolves will ever return to a significant portion of their range, and reclaim their place as a keystone species of American landscapes. I hope Secretary Jewell agrees,” said DeFazio

The Service’s proposed rule has generated over 1 million comments since 2013. DeFazio recently led a CREDO Mobile petition to urge the Service to rescind the rule that generated over 115,000 signatures.

A copy of the letter is below and attached.

=================================

March 19, 2014

The Honorable Sally Jewell
Secretary U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Secretary Jewell:

Last week the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) released its peer review report for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) proposed rule to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for all gray wolves other than a small experimental population of Mexican wolves being reintroduced in Arizona and New Mexico. The findings of this independent scientific review validate concerns raised by Congress and the scientific community over the Service’s failure to use the best available science to support the gray wolf delisting proposal.  Specifically, the expert panelists noted explicitly that the rule does not currently represent the best available science, that there is not currently sufficient scientific basis for recognizing a separate “eastern wolf” as asserted in the rule, and that the rule presents no evidence excluding the gray wolf from an historic range in the eastern United States.

The Service’s claim in the proposed rule that the gray wolf has recovered and should no longer be listed as endangered hinged on the purported existence of a distinct eastern wolf. The peer review report found that the existing scientific literature provides absolutely no basis for this conclusion. Therefore, we are again asking you to direct the Service to rescind the proposed rule. As you said when speaking at the Children, Conservation, and the Future of the Great Outdoors event last June, deciding whether or not to remove ESA protection from the gray wolf “is about science, and you do what the science says.”

While we are troubled by the certainty with which the Service proceeded in this instance, even in the face of clear scientific disagreement, we are pleased that the agency finally heeded our calls for an independent peer review of the rule.  Still, we have serious concerns regarding the initial attempts to exclude top wolf experts from this process, and the resurrection of a long-dormant government journal to “publish” the study (written by four FWS employees) used to justify the rule. These actions cast doubt on Service Director Dan Ashe’s recent statement that his agency has no “desire to wring our hands and walk away from wolves.”[1]

Because it is not based on the best available science, the proposed rule undermines decades of conservation work done to protect the gray wolf, and sets a bad precedent for future ESA delistings. Further, it would stifle gray wolf recovery at a time when conservation gains are only nascent in the Pacific Northwest, and recovery has yet to begin in California, Colorado, Utah, and the Northeast, where scientists have identified a significant amount of suitable habitat that would support wolf populations.

The ESA does not charge the Service with restoring only as much of the endangered species as it deems politically convenient. In fact, the purposes of the Act “are to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved [and] to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species.”[2] The Service should rescind the proposed rule immediately, and continue to review the taxonomic history of wolves in the eastern United States, and other factors related to the status of endangered gray wolf populations and their associated ecosystems before removing federal protection.

Click here for a copy of the letter, including signatures.

[1] http://www.npr.org/2013/12/27/257654599/after-major-comeback-is-the-gray-wolf-still-endangered

[2] Endangered Species Act of 1973, section 2(b).

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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole, Western Watershed Project’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Coordinator, is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is also serves as a member of the board of directors for Buffalo Field Campaign and as a member of the Sierra Club Grazing Core Team.

41 Responses to DeFazio Leads 73 Members on Bipartisan Letter Urging Secretary Jewell to Maintain Critical Gray Wolf Protections

  1. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    Thank you, all!

  2. avatar Yvette says:

    Excellent!

  3. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    Still, we have serious concerns regarding the initial attempts to exclude top wolf experts from this process, and the resurrection of a long-dormant government journal to “publish” the study (written by four FWS employees) used to justify the rule. These actions cast doubt on Service Director Dan Ashe’s recent statement that his agency has no “desire to wring our hands and walk away from wolves.”

    Just awesome.

  4. avatar Barb Rupers says:

    He is not the representative from my district in Oregon but he is my favorite, has been for years.

    He wants to cut funding for Wildlife Services, the ones that just gunned down 23 wolves in the NF Clearwater Lolo area.

  5. avatar Gary Humbard says:

    As a ranking member (along with the signatures), the letter should get the attention of the Service. DeFazio has consistently been an ally of conservation efforts. I didn’t check but my guess is that the signatures were Democrats.

    Oregon has the most progressive wolf management plan in the west thus we in Oregon need to train wolves to not swim the Snake River. Another Oregon wolf killed in Idaho this week.

  6. avatar Sam Parks says:

    So I wonder which 13 members backed off? Raul Grijalva wrote a letter back in December basically saying the same thing, with a total of 86 representatives signing on. I wonder what happened to the other 13?

  7. avatar WM says:

    Probably equally important is who has not signed the letter geographically. There is only one from Colorado (Jared Polis who has roughly the same demographic as DeFazio – two major colleges in the Congressional district), and zero from UT. Haven’t checked for states like TX, NM, NV or Northern CA, or Eastern OR, but suspect there are very few. But I do see NY Rep. Charlie Rangel (who has probably never stepped off a paved surface in his life) signed, as has Jim McDermott, my Representative from Western WA.

    I doubt a third of these Representatives understand the issue- the genetic distinction or not of an “eastern wolf” that is the pivot point around which FWS centered the delisting proposal, and the practical convenience of using it. I bet they just got to the “best available science” language and signed up. That term, by the way, is undefined in the ESA.

    It is also troubling why there are 13 fewer signatories to this than the previous letter. Anybody know?

    • avatar Mark L says:

      WM says,
      “Representatives understand the issue- the genetic distinction or not of an “eastern wolf” that is the pivot point around which FWS centered the delisting proposal, and the practical convenience of using it. I bet they just got to the “best available science” language and signed up. That term, by the way, is undefined in the ESA.”
      You do understand that the FWS themselves made this a central issue, right? I can imagine a ‘situation’ coming up soon that may cause this ‘construct’, created by the FWS to become irrelevant.

      • avatar Louise Kane says:

        perhaps best available science is better left vague and interpreted by commons sense and the courts…

        an interesting look at attempts to define best available science. Fortunately the last attempt to do so which would have allowed the Secretary to make the decision was challenged.

        http://www.martenlaw.com/newsletter/20051221-best-avail-science

        • avatar JimT says:

          Good article…

          • avatar JimT says:

            But I don’t think leaving the standard up to political winds is a good idea, especially with the attack on science that started to accelerate under Bush, and that has not been seriously abated under Obama, to be honest. Too much these days is politicized; future of species is too critical to be left to whims of election politics.

          • avatar WM says:

            From the article, and a proposed staturoy definition of “best available science”:

            ++Environmentalists argue that this new definition politicizes science by allowing “a political appointee, the Secretary of Interior, rather than scientists, to decide what constitutes the best science[.]” According to some in the environmental community, rather than leave the definition up to the scientific community as the ESA does, H.R. 3824 would “allow greater political manipulation of scientific decisions.” Center for Biological Diversity, Stop H.R. 3824[ http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/PROGRAMS/policy/ESA/cbd-tesra.pdf ].

            At least one science and technology commentator fears that such politicization will cause “competent scientists [to] avoid public service, degrading the quality of advice to policy makers and the public[.]” John Horgan, Political Science, N.Y. Times, Dec. 18, 2005.++

            So, as it is, the determination may be left ULTIMATELY to a non-scientist appointed federal judge [who may have his/her own political leaning, think Molloy here, for example] weighing against a standard of whether an agency acted “arbitrarily or capriciously.”

            Also seems to me there is a question of “relevant” best available science. Advocate conservation biologists and geneticists are inclined to make greater and greater distinctions as among and between populations of, for example, salmon, steelhead, bull trout, cutthroat trout, sage grouse/prairie chickens or wolves to advance sub-species and their habitat requirements.

            Did the original drafters of the ESA contemplate this? I have always wondered if the drafters of certain laws (and Congressional types who voted for them, because it does require a majority in both houses and a President to sign the bill) were to come back today, forty years later, and were asked is THIS what you intended, might change their minds making them more restrictive or loosened them up a bit?

            • avatar WM says:

              continuining: restrict or loosen them up a bit…or go an entirely different direction/approach with another statutory framework?

              And, do remember some laws lay out lofty goals, but funding appropriations left to future Congressional bodies can and do stop agency implementation of some of these laws dead in their tracks! Then groups like CBD file law suit after law suit.

      • avatar JimT says:

        But is it defined in the implementing regulations as it often the case with federal environmental statutes?

    • avatar JimT says:

      You mean the myth of the so called separate eastern wolf, don’t you?

  8. avatar John says:

    great news, finally. Now lets see what happens with the ball in Sally’s court

    • avatar JimT says:

      Sally is a lightweight, to be blunt. She will do whatever the WH tells her to do, damn the statute, implementing regs and the law.

      • avatar julie long gallegos says:

        Whenever I see her on tape being interviewed she always acts as if somebody just outside of camera range has her at gunpoint.

  9. avatar WM says:

    So, a little more on the geographic distribution of signatories; 19 of the 73 signatories to DeFazio’s letter are from California. All but 3 are from “relatively liberal coastal urban districts,” according to the article below:

    http://www.kcet.org/news/redefine/rewild/agencies/majority-of-states-democratic-representatives-want-wolves-protected.html

    I suppose ID could ship CA some of their excess wolves, but I recall that offer was already made by Butch a couple years back and rejected. Maybe it’s time to make the offer again. Perhaps that is under the purview of the new ID Wolf Control Board. They could use some of their money for live trapping and transport (subject reimbursement by CA, of course).

    One more thing. CA has 53 Congressional Districts. That means (53-19) 34, or almost 2/3 of the delegation of CA Representatives did not sign. Are they in favor, against, or just hiding on the issue?

    • avatar Louise Kane says:

      Oh for God’s sake WM
      so what if 19 of the signatories are from California.
      Did you expect they would be from Idaho?
      California has been a leader lately in some much needed reform in wildlife and land issues. I did not expect they would be from Wyoming, Montana or Idaho. Thank God for the relatively liberal coastal urban districts. Washington, Oregon and California all seem prepared and quite happy to welcome wolves, excepting the small percentage of ranchers and trophy hunters tenaciously clinging to their predator hatred and trying to influence policy making. Polls in these states show a great acceptance and tolerance for wolves as in most other places nationally.

      I wonder how the obscene amount of money that Idaho, Montana and Wyoming use to kill wildlife compares proportionally to what is spent on education? if these districts used their money half as enthusiastically to educate their constituents they’d be voted out and they probably know it. What else explains the current corrupted cretins in office? yes thanks to the liberal coastal communities…..

      • avatar WM says:

        ++Polls in these states show a great acceptance and tolerance for wolves as in most other places nationally. ++

        Well, maybe if pollsters ask the right questions (which they sometimes don’t).

        One other thing, Louise, from the article, only 1 CA Representative who signed the letter even has the potential for having wolves in his district. Acceptance/tolerance has a lot to do with where one lives or is expected to have interaction with wolves and those evil activities of raising livestock (of all kinds not just commercial), and hunting, or rural living. Eastern WA and Eastern OR, and I suspect some parts of interior rural CA may have a bit different view of how many they want. Another wait and assess the impacts period, no doubt.

        And, yes, once again, I am sincere in the belief that if CA really wants wolves, somebody who doesn’t want them should offer some up. And, at some point WA and OR are going to have more than they want, or more in some places and no place to relocate the excess (I give it about 4-5 years, I think I said 6 last year). Then what, Louise?

        Maybe CBD and Defenders ought to focus on lobbying for relocation programs with individual states. What do you think, or is common sense not a part of wolf advocacy?

        • avatar Louise Kane says:

          WM Washington state polled their constituency to determine attitudes about wolves and 76% ( i recall) were supportive of wolves. That poll was taken as part of the work done to create the wolf recovery and management plan. I hardly think that poll was stacked to get pro wolf responses. You already know this

          • avatar WM says:

            Louise,

            Here is the WDFW letter supporting the blanket delisting of gray wolves.

            http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/director/ltr_natural_resource_committees_12-18-13.pdf

            I have not see the questions of phone poll that was done in 2008 regarding wolf acceptance/tolerance in WA. But for sure, WA will manage numbers and range at some point in the future, and it is likely to include some form of lethal control (unless they can pawn them off on some other state that might want them).

            • avatar Louise Kane says:

              we were talking about a poll that WDFG took as part of the process to create the recovery/management plan not he politics that have influenced the agency since then. Those are two distinct issues. The ranching and livestock industries have as predicted eroded some of the best intent in that plan in fiascos like the Wedge Pack killing. The level of tolerance is high in WA if the hysteria that the trophy hunters and ranching industries create can be kept in check. It would also be nice if WDFG could hold their ground and not capitulate to every cry foul cry wolf call.

              • avatar WM says:

                Louise,

                Please stop with the disproportionate “trophy hunting” references. If you knew anything about hunting and state management of it, not just WA but any state, you would realize that only a very small percentage of elk/deer taken are “trophy” type animals. Most are less mature bulls, and a lot of cows. Many hunters focus on these animals, rather than the “trophy” animals you find divisive.

                Let’s deal with facts, and rational projections, too. More wolves likely mean fewer hunting opportunities for all elk/deer classes in some locations. The WA wolf plan acknowledges this possibiltity. It just cannot be predicted when.

                The WDFW Commission, a pretty well balanced body and loaded with science grounded appointees, has vowed to keep a watchful eye over these aspects. They will likely get their chance in about 4-5 years. Wolves that get into trouble with livestock will still be dealt with, even prior to that time.

                Quite frankly, the only hysteria I’ve seen, today anyway, springs from your comments.

            • avatar Louise Kane says:

              That letter does no indicate that the people of Washington or northwestern scientists support delisting. In fact, all evidence points to great support to keep wolves listed. The letter proves nothing but the agency took the typical ass kissing predator hating route. Public opinion is another matter. Check out the percentage of comments that were against delisting. I’ll look for the link but it think it was in the 90% range. Out of over a million submitted!

              • avatar WM says:

                ++That letter does not indicate that the people of Washington or northwestern scientists support delisting.++

                The people of WA speak through their Wildlife Commission Chairperson, Miranda Weicker, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate, and she in turn for the commission following a vote on an issue. The same Commission that approved the state wolf management plan. The Director works at the pleasure of the Commission. I guess that is the way representative democracy is supposed to work. Don’t like the governor, legislators, then don’t elect them. And, its fine if somebody from out of state wants to comment on how WA governs, but then they don’t live here.

                What I read in the WA letter supporting delisting is that the state of WA neither wants the federal government’s regulations, advice or meager wildlife money (P-R funds excepted) when it comes to management of wildlife within its borders. Seems I have heard or read similar comments from some other Western states.

                I also direct you to p. 5 of the delisting letter where it is stated that 69.5% of WA residents polled (since you take great store in opinion polls for making management decisions, right?) support limiting the number of wolves if they locally impact deer or elk populations. So, there you have it, in a nutshell.

            • avatar Louise Kane says:

              please stick to the points being argued instead of using the hysteria card. Nothing about my last posts even bordered on hysteria so stop being rude please.

            • avatar Louise Kane says:

              WM here is a letter written by Udall’s daughter
              I think it reflects a good proportion of American’s opinions about the ESA and wolves.

              http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/opinion/report/031214_wolf_udall_op/udall-gray-wolf-delisting-not-sound-science/

              for someone that purports to be a conservationist you do rally quickly to pick apart any arguments, articles or literature in favor of protecting wolves. I can’t tell if it’s a devils advocate stance or a latent dislike of predators. And you especially dislike any litigation aimed at protecting wolves…..

              • avatar Louise Kane says:

                I take back the words purported conservationist because I do believe you are a very intelligent and concerned advocate. I should have said for someone that purports to believe in sound and rational management of wildlife, and of predators. Thats the confusing part….There is nothing rational about predator management in the US. I am always surprised to see you so virulently against any attempts or arguments in favor of revising wolf or other predator management laws or policies. Wolf delisting has been a tragedy and its has largely been driven by hysteria from trophy hunters (big game forever, safari club international etc) and the livestock industry. The Fish and Game departments bend over backward to accommodate and ignore everyone else. To deny that is just not truthful.

    • avatar Mike says:

      You really are the worst troll.

      Why spend all day and night on a forum full of people who like wolves?

  10. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    Political wonks have long talked about “blue dog” and “yellow dog” Democrats, but now California has a new Democratic dog political tendency: the Gray Wolf Democrat.

    I love it!

  11. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    WM,

    I’m raising my hand, we’d love wolves here in the Northeast, but no one will let us have them. I think the bigmouths out West are full of hot air, I think at least one of them (MT?) won’t allow wildlife to be removed from their state. But if they want to, some states would be all for it.

  12. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    The two Republicans who signed the letter were New Jersey’s Chris Smith and Pennsylvania’s Mike Fitzpatrick. Most congressional Republicans favor de-listing.

    http://www.desertsun.com/article/20140319/NEWS03/303190020/Raul-Ruiz-gray-wolf-endangered-species-list?nclick_check=1

  13. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    I wonder when the US Fish and Wildlife will feel it’s appropriate to step in. But, small progress, it’s good to see the word wolf ‘management’ in quotes in news stories:

    http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors/2014/mar/20/lawmakers-pressure-jewell-keep-wolf-protections/

  14. avatar Joanne Favazza says:

    We all knew that Sally Jewell would kiss the butts of the livestock and hunting industries. Obama never would have appointed her if she had intended on taking a stand for wildlife and wild places. She’s just another worthless political puppet, allowing inexcusable harm to be done to our natural treasures and wild species by the special interests that are pulling her strings. She’s just dangling there with a stupid grin on her face, mouthing a script and playing the game.

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