Senators urge emergency protections for wolves in US West

Matthew Brown
Associated Press

Billings, Mont. – A group of Democratic lawmakers on Thursday urged the Biden administration to enact emergency protections for gray wolves in the U.S. West in response to Republican-backed state laws that make it easier to kill the predators.

Twenty-one U.S. senators led by New Jersey’s Cory Booker and Michigan’s Gary Peters asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to shield wolves from being killed for 240 days while permanent protections are considered.

It’s been legal to hunt and trap wolves in the U.S. Northern Rockies for the past decade, after they rebounded from widespread extermination and federal endangered species protections were lifted.

This March 21, 2019 file photo provided by the National Park Service shows the Junction Butte wolf pack taken from an aircraft in Yellowstone National Park.

But Republican officials in Montana and Idaho are intent on culling more wolf packs. Wolves periodically attack livestock and also prey on elk and deer herds that many hunters prize.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month launched a year-long review to determine if protections need to be restored. The move did nothing to protect wolves in the interim, and Yellowstone National Park administrators have since complained after three wolves from a pack popular with tourists were killed after roaming into Montana.

“If continued unabated for this hunting season, these extreme wolf eradication policies will result in the deaths of hundreds of gray wolves,” the Democratic lawmakers said in a letter to Haaland. “The Department of Interior can prevent these senseless killings.”

The letter was signed by senators including from California and Nevada in the West, but no Northern Rockies lawmakers.

Native American groups and environmentalists have previously requested an emergency listing of wolves as an endangered species.

Federal officials said in response that temporary protections can’t be enacted through the legal petitions they received. However, the Endangered Species Act gives Haaland authority to do so if she determines there is an immediate and significant threat to a species’ survival.