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December 08, 2010

Wolves in Danger: Speak Out Today

News flash: Last night, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, an HSUS-sponsored bill to protect consumers and animals by requiring all garments containing animal fur to be accurately labeled by species and country of origin. This legislation will close a loophole in current federal law that allows some animal fur garments to go unlabeled if the value of the fur is $150 or less, and will bring much-needed accuracy and disclosure to fur products to help consumers make informed purchasing choices. On the heels of the passage of the animal crush legislation, this is a second great legislative win in the lame-duck session of Congress.

But as we celebrate this victory, we find ourselves engaged in another policy battle in the nation’s capitol—the removal of gray wolves from the endangered species list.

Gray wolf in snow
© iStockphoto

The U.S. Department of the Interior has recently announced support for an immediate end to all federal protection for wolves through an unprecedented amendment to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in Congress. Wolves have suffered from a long history of inhumane treatment and abuse, with state-sponsored bounties and widespread killing resulting in their near extinction throughout most of this country by the 1970s. Turning wolf management over to hostile state officials would be a significant threat to the species’ continued recovery and sustainability, yet that is what Interior Secretary Ken Salazar appears intent on doing.

Trophy hunting and livestock interests have continually pressured the U.S. government to strip the gray wolf of ESA protections—driven by an irrational fear of these animals. Unable to achieve their goals in the courts, these special interest groups have now turned to Congress. Rather than support long-standing federal law and use the science-based approach to recovery of vulnerable species mandated by the Endangered Species Act, Salazar has recently promised governors from Western states that the Obama Administration will support the immediate removal of federal protections for gray wolves.

These unprecedented legislative proposals, which could be voted on during the current lame-duck session, would not only mean the death of hundreds of wolves, but the undoing of decades of conservation efforts and the weakening of the Endangered Species Act. The proposals would set dangerous precedent for all imperiled wildlife by letting politics guide management decisions, providing a pathway for special interests any time they are unhappy with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or the federal courts.

One bill, sponsored by several members of the House, would remove all wolves from the protections of the ESA. A second bill, sponsored by two Montana Democrats, Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, would exempt wolves in Montana and Idaho from the protections of the ESA. Today, please make a brief, polite phone call to the White House (202-456-1111) and your two U.S. Senators (call the Congressional switchboard at 202-225-3121 or find their direct numbers here), urging them not to support any legislative or regulatory efforts to remove or weaken protections for endangered wolves. Please also email Secretary Salazar after making your calls.

These states all have plans to hunt and kill large numbers of wolves. These populations would be decimated and their families destroyed. It’s time that the Obama Administration hear from animal advocates that this is a rash and outrageous decision to repeat our shameful history of wolf extirpation, and we want him to reverse course.

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