U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., introduced legislation Wednesday that would remove wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Rehberg and a group of other legislators actually introduced two bills: one that would delist wolves across the country, and another that would delist them in Montana and Idaho, explicitly empowering those states with management authority over the species.
If the first bill were to pass, the second bill would not be necessary. Rehberg announced late last year that he had drafted the Idaho and Montana bill, but the national bill is new.
“The gray wolf isn’t endangered, which is why Republicans and Democrats alike are joining forces to end the misuse of the Endangered Species Act to advance extremist policy agendas,” Rehberg stated in a press release. “I heard from thousands of Montanans, and folks get it. They know that states are better at managing our own local wildlife than the federal government thousands of miles away.”
He said that “years of research, dedicated efforts by landowners and local officials and the expert opinions of on-the-ground wildlife managers have been given a back seat to profit-motivated environmental groups.”
Wolves in Idaho and Montana were delisted in 2009, allowing for regulated wolf hunts in those states that year, but a federal judge in Missoula ruled last summer that the delisting violated the ESA because it did not include Wyoming’s wolf population.
Rehberg said that wolf populations have far surpassed recovery goals, but that wasn’t enough to stop environmental litigants from prevailing in court.
Co-sponsoring the legislation are Idaho Republican congressmen Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador.
“The Endangered Species Act is a tool to recover a species, not a program for infinite and never-ending federal oversight,” Labrador said. “The wolves are thriving, the science is definitive and the time has come to delist the gray wolf permanently.”
Rehberg lists 15 congressional supporters of the legislation, including six Democrats.
Other lawmakers have developed alternative legislation to restore state management authority over wolves, including Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus.