As part of the 2011 budget bill passed today by the House of Representatives, Congress for the first time removed a species from the Fish and Wildlife Service's list of endangered species. (The Senate and White House are expected to approve the massive bill shortly.)
A review of opinions on the measure from around the Web:
The initial upshot, from The Washington Post:
Lawmakers describe the provision in the spending bill as a necessary intervention in a wildlife dilemma that some say has spun out of control. Sixty-six wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies from Canada in the mid-1990s; there are now at least 1,650.
But legal experts warn the administration's support of lifting protections for the animals opens the door to future meddling by lawmakers catering to anti-wildlife interests.
The endangered act has long been reviled by conservatives who see it as a hindrance to economic development. Now, the administration's support for the wolf provision signals that protections for even the most imperiled animals, fish and plants are negotiable given enough political pressure, experts said.
Officials in Montana and Idaho already are planning public hunts for the predators this fall, hoping to curb increasingly frequent wolf attacks on livestock and big game herds.
The sponsor of the measure, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) explains his rationale:
"Right now, Montana's wolf population is out of balance and this provision will get us back on the responsible path with state management. Wolves have recovered in the Northern Rockies. By untying the hands of the Montana biologists who know how to keep the proper balance, we will restore healthy wildlife populations and we will protect livestock. This provision is best for our wildlife, our livestock and for wolves themselves."
The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona, which has used legal means to try to protect the wolves, is furious:
In the 38-year history of the Endangered Species Act, Congress has never intervened to override the law and remove a plant or animal from federal protection.
"Tester's rider is not only a disaster for wolf recovery, it opens the door for every self-interested politician to try to strip protection away from local endangered species," said Suckling. "It encourages weak-link Democrats to hold the entire party hostage to their local agendas."