Bipartisan Support for State Wolf Management Angers Enviro Hardliners
The federal program to control problem wolves that prey on livestock in northern Minnesota had to shut down last week. The Itasca County-based unit had already caught and killed more wolves than usual by mid-October, as noted by the Duluth News Tribune. But it ran out of funding.
That’s a big deal to farmers and cattle ranchers who can no longer defend their livestock themselves, following the intervention of a Washington, DC federal judge in 2014.
With a rising population of wolves and more of them attacking livestock and pets, a federal program to trap and kill problem wolves in northern Minnesota has run out of money.
While Great Lakes-region wolves are currently protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, they are listed as officially “threatened” in Minnesota — a step below endangered that allows U.S. Department of Agriculture trappers to kill wolves where livestock and pets have been killed.
But that Grand Rapids-based program, which has for decades killed about 180 wolves in Minnesota annually, blew through its budget this year and stopped operations last Friday.
In a rare show of common sense conservation policy across party lines, a cross section of Minnesota’s congressional delegation last week successfully prevailed upon U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to restore emergency funding for the program. After all, with Minnesota’s wolf population up 25 percent in the last year, the problem will likely only get worse over winter.
Predation has been a particular problem lately in Roseau and Kittson counties of northwestern Minnesota and Carlton and northern Pine counties in northeastern Minnesota, said Thom Petersen, director of government relations for the Minnesota Farmers Union, who worked with the delegation to pressure the USDA.
“Hopefully in the next day or two trappers will be back on the job,” he said.
Despite the wolf’s resurgence, environmental hardliners like Collette Adkins of the Center for Biological Diversity continue to play politics with the predator. The Minnesota attorney who sued to prevent DNR wildlife experts from managing the wolf population hyperventilates in the Star Tribune this weekend about a potentially bigger threat on the horizon: A Minnesota Democratic congressman who’s broken ideological ranks!
If you’re a Minnesotan like me, you’ll likely be surprised to hear that U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, is joining Republican ranks by sponsoring legislation to strip our state’s gray wolves of Endangered Species Act protections.
Rep. Peterson’s bill (H.R. 424) would reinstate a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that removed endangered species protections from wolves in the western Great Lakes states.
Adkins claims it’s all about science, not politics or the courts. But the DNR’s carefully calibrated state management of gray wolves was working well by most accounts before the federal courts took charge again.
Perhaps Adkins and other environmental hard-liners see more of a threat to their political influence than anything else. Sure sounds like it.
In seeking to gut or repeal the Endangered Species Act, congressional Republicans — and in this case our Rep. Peterson — are woefully out of step with the public. Most Americans overwhelmingly support strong protections for endangered species, and they recognize that this incredibly successful law has saved the gray wolf, the bald eagle, the humpback whale and others from extinction.
Now is not the time to weaken environmental laws — not with a Trump administration in the White House and politicians in Congress who would rather line their pockets with campaign funds from special-interest groups than protect our wildlife and wild places.