US FISH & WILDLIFE: PAID BY THE TAXPAYERS, CONTROLLED BY TROPHY HUNTERS

 Back in October 2020 the Secretary of the Interior under the Trump administration announced the delisting of gray wolves from the endangered species list. As of January 4, 2021 the wolf is no longer a federally protected species. The US Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) decision to delist did not follow the law. Under the Endangered Species Act the USFWS must review the following to determine if delisting is warranted:

1. Is there a present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the species' habitat or range?

2. Is the species subject to over-utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes?

3. Is disease or predation a factor?

4. Are there adequate existing regulatory mechanisms in place, taking into account the initiatives by States and other organizations, to protect the species or habitat?

5. Are other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence?

After the above 5 factor analysis is made the USFWS is required to solicit the expert opinion of at least 3 appropriate independent species specialists (peer review). They are also required to seek the input of the public, the scientific community at large, plus federal and state agencies.

THE PUBLIC OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORTS THE CONTINUED PROTECTION OF GRAY WOLVES

1.8 Million Americans Speak Out Against Stripping Federal Protections from Wolves

THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY AT LARGE HAS MADE IT ABUNDANTLY CLEAR HOW IT FEELS ABOUT THE DELISTING IN THE NUMEROUS LETTERS THEY HAVE WRITTEN OPPOSING THE DECISION.

An open letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Scientists and Scholars on Federal Wolf Delisting in the context of the U.S. Endangered Species Act

Open letter from scientists and scholars on wolf recovery in the Great Lakes region and beyond

Open letter to US Fish and Wildlife Service opposing removal of gray wolf from Endangered Species Act protections, signed by 128 conservation biologists.

American Society of Mammalogists Letter on Wolf Delisting

THE SCIENTIFIC PEER REVIEW OF THE PROPOSAL TO DELIST FOUND EXTENSIVE ERRORS

The 5 member expert panel responsible for reviewing the proposal by the USFWS to delist gray wolves said it was "chalk full of scientific errors" and a 245 page report presented to the USFWS by the peer review panel says "the evidence doesn't support the administration's conclusion to rollback protections for the gray wolf across the lower 48" but that didn't stop USFWS from moving forward with delisting because the decision to delist was never based on science as required, it was political.  

The fact is the criteria for delisting was never met. 

In a lawsuit by environmental groups to challenge the delisting of gray wolves the following violations by the USFWS are noted: (source of Information: Center for Biological Diversity)

1. ignored the ESA's requirement that any delisting decision concerning wolves listed in the lower 48 states must consider the entire population, not merely wolves in the Midwest;

2. failed to provide for a sustainable wolf population after delisting;

3. failed to analyze and address the importance of lost historical habitat;

4. did not rationally assess the status of gray wolves within significant portions of their current rant;

5. failed to use the best available science; and

6. invalidly measured recovery using an out-of-date and geographically restricted recovery plan.

President Joe Biden, having been left baffled by the many environmental roll-backs made under the past  administration, has ordered a sweeping review of all Trump regulations including the decision to strip gray wolves of Endangered Species Act protections. Unfortunately the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) doesn't want to comply with Biden's executive order. In a three-paragraph letter to conservation groups the USFWS maintains their decision to delist was valid, claiming they made the decision based on the best available science despite what their 5 member scientific review panel said. 

Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity said "there is no way the USFWS followed President Biden's directive and completed its review in just five days. President Biden has made it clear that listening to the science will be the hallmark of his administration. It's sad USFWS didn't the get the memo."

Unfortunately, US Fish and Wildlife regularly ignores the law when it comes to protecting wild predators. In 2016 a federal court ruled that government officials acted illegally when they authorized the killing of four grizzly bears. In 2018 a federal judge restored Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears living around Yellowstone Park. In that case the judge said "the federal government didn't use best available science when it removed bears."

At that time trophy hunting groups like the Safari Club International (SCI) had big plans for a grizzly bear hunting season. Not much unlike the big plans they always make to hunt gray wolves. 

The SCI has been getting nervous about President Biden's executive orders and his call to review decisions like wolf delisting. On February 2, on the Lone Star Outdoor News Podcast, Ben Cassidy, Director of Government Affairs for Safari Club International, said they are talking with the Dept. of the Interior, sending letters to the interim secretary, telling them to defend the decisions that were made under Trump that benefitted SCI. One piece the podcast host and Ben Cassidy have a real problem with is the idea of "restoring science" and how that will affect trophy hunting and trapping in Alaska and also how it will impact the delisting of the gray wolf. Ben Cassidy notes 10 lawsuits SCI participated in to keep the wolf delisted so trophy hunters could trap and kill them and he states they will once again be fighting the three latest lawsuits to restore federal protection of wolves. 

You can listen to the Podcast HERE and the conversation starts at the 1:12:00 mark. 

One group that has stood solidly by the Safari Club International in their quest to delist gray wolves for hunting and trapping purposes is the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA has joined the SCI in numerous lawsuits to keep wolves from federal protection. Here are few:

2008 - NRA Joins Lawsuit to Defend Western Wolf Delisting

2009 - NRA asks to join wolf lawsuit

2011 - NRA Continues Fight in Wolf Delisting Challenge

John Horning, the Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians, wrote this article about the NRA last month: Trump’s parting gift to the NRA In the article John brings to light what few people are aware of. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency funded by American taxpayers, signed a "memorandum of understanding" with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to assist the NRA in recruiting and training people to kill wildlife as part of their vast hunter and education outreach programs. This agreement was signed on January 13 and will last 10 years. You can read the agreement HERE.  

To understand why this is happening you just need to look at the players. For starters, the USFWS Director since 2019 is Aurelia Skipwith. I wrote about her previously HERE. She is a former Monsanto employee who has a long history of being connected to groups that oppose endangered species protections and the SCI was instrumental in helping her get elected to her current position. Unfortunately, people like Aurelia Skipwith are not a new problem within the agency. In 2015 the Union of Concerned Scientists conducted a survey of USFWS scientists and 70% of respondents said "they thought the level of consideration given to political interests at the agency was too high." You can read the article HERE. In 2018 another survey was sent to USFWS scientists and some reported that "leadership discouraged employees from taking the survey, citing an internal policy that the agency must approve all surveys. However, no legal mechanisms prevents employees from taking such a survey on their own time using their own equipment, and answering in their own personal capacities." Survey results "strongly suggested resource constraints as well as inappropriate political influence on science based decisions." Read report HERE.

In the 2021 Budget Justifications Report for the U.S. Interior it says "another management priority is creating a strong ethical culture to ensure Interior employees honor the public's trust to manage taxpayer funds responsibly and avoid conflicts of interest." Managing our funds responsibly would include following the President's order to review all wildlife policies put into place under the previous administration. Avoiding conflicts of interest would be to not partner with National Rifle Association. 

How are we as a country suppose to tackle the extinction crisis when the US Fish and Wildlife Service ignores science and caters to special interest groups that have worked for years to oppose the protection of threatened and endangered wildlife? 

US taxpayers are funding a government agency that is literally working against us. The majority of the American public believes in science, which is why we elected Joe Biden as our President on November 3, 2020 and not Donald Trump. The majority of the American public does not have any interest in hunting or trapping. A survey conducted by the USFWS showed only 5% of the US population hunts and only a small percentage within that number hunts for trophies and out of 328 million people only 175,573 have a license to trap. The majority of Americans believe trophy hunting and trapping is brutal and unnecessary so why is the USFWS allowing trophy hunters to dictate wildlife management? 


Resources:

Delisting a Species Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act

Scientists Find Serious Flaws in Proposal to Delist Endangered Gray Wolf

Summary Report of Independent Peer Reviews for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gray Wolf Delisting Review

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

Dept. of Interior Letter to Conservation Groups

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ignores Biden Executive Order to Review Trump Wolf Delisting

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA MISSOULA DIVISION

Victory! Court Restores Endangered Species Act Protections for Grizzly Bears

Budget Justifications Report - US Dept. of Interior.