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February 24, 2011

How Politics Can Endanger Every Species

Last August, the Sierra Club and other conservation groups celebrated when a federal judge ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service couldn't prematurely take gray wolves off of the Endangered Species List in Montana and Idaho. That celebration was short-lived.

Now, it's not just the gray wolf that's threatened -- it's the Endangered Species Act itself. HR 1, the Continuing Budget Resolution passed by the House last week, has an amendment that would specifically exclude wolves from protection in Montana and Idaho. Similar legislation was introduced by Montana's senators.

It gets worse, though -- bills have also been proposed in both the Senate and the House that would remove endangered species protection for all wolves in the United States -- forever. That includes the fewer than fifty Mexican gray wolves struggling to survive in Arizona and New Mexico.

Any of these bills would be disastrous for gray wolves, but their ultimate consequences would extend much further -- to every single species that might someday find itself at odds with a powerful commercial or political interest. Endangered species don't vote, don't make campaign contributions, and don't stand a chance if their fate is subject to the whims of politicians rather than sound science and habitat management. The Endangered Species Act simply cannot work if politicians are allowed to start cherry-picking which species they think should or should not be allowed to survive.

There was a time when many people believed that wildlife and wild lands had no value beyond their potential for commercial exploitation. You could argue that our forebears simply didn't know any better when they shot the last passenger pigeon or killed the last Caribbean monk seal. We won't have that excuse.

You can help protect both gray wolves and the Endangered Species Act by sending a message to your Congressional representatives today.


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Michael Brune

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