Friday, March 03, 2017
Solution to Mexican wolf issue is a new appellate court
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake
Cattle ranching is an essential part of our cultural heritage in Arizona, and it continues to play an important role in our state economy. Unfortunately, onerous regulations are making it harder for ranchers to stay in business.
I continue to hear from land users about the federal government’s general lack of coordination and cooperation with local stakeholders. For ranchers, a top concern is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mishandling of the Mexican gray wolf recovery effort.
Species management is always a delicate balancing act, and it requires extensive consultation with the stakeholders that are most affected by changes to local ecosystems.
To address the declining numbers of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, the wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1976. The Fish and Wildlife Service went on to finalize the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan to return viable populations back to the wolf’s historic range.
This plan set a recovery goal of 100 wolves, a target that was exceeded in 2014. However, instead of celebrating the recovery plan’s success by delisting the wolf and returning management to the states, the federal government decided to move the goal posts.
It continues to manage the Mexican gray wolf under onerous Endangered Species Act requirements, harming ranchers and other rural Arizona stakeholders in the process.
This is a case study in what’s wrong with the Endangered Species Act. I agree that we should ensure viable species populations, but the law was never intended for species to be listed in perpetuity.
Since the Endangered Species Act was signed into law, more than 2,000 species have been listed as threatened or endangered. Yet in more than 40 years, less than one percent of these species have ever been removed from the list.
This isn’t because of the law’s failure to recover species; rather, it’s due to a bureaucratic reluctance to return species management to the states.
To establish a realistic path forward to delist the Mexican gray wolf that respects Arizona property owners, I introduced the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan Act. This legislation will require the Fish and Wildlife Service to work with state and local stakeholders in drafting an updated recovery plan that doesn’t adversely impact livestock, wild game or recreation.
The bill would reflect the reality that 90 percent of the wolf’s historic range is in Mexico, meaning that states like Arizona won’t be forced to shoulder an unfair burden of the recovery effort.
And since this legislation deals with wolves, I figured it should have some teeth.
Under the bill, achieving the recovery goal would trigger an automatic delisting, returning management of Mexican gray wolves to the states. If the Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t comply with the updated recovery plan, state wildlife agencies would be empowered to assume management of wolf populations in accordance with the Endangered Species Act.