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WI: Wolf delisting bill does not make it to a vote

Separate delisting legislation is in doubt

Beckie Joki
Outdoors Writer

An attempt to delist wolves from the federal endangered species list by attaching it to an omnibus appropriations bill in Congress has failed, and the future of the legislative effort is in doubt.

Late last week, Congress was set to approve a $1.1-trillion spending package hammered out in negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. Supporters of delisting had wanted legislation to do so included as riders to the bill.

Wolves are a hotly debated predator in the Midwest. Many, including a group of 26 scientists, believe the wolf should be delisted, pointing to population numbers in the region, which are estimated to be far above the needed threshold for the species to be delisted.

Others, including animal-rights organizations and groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, say the wolf has not fully recovered due to the fact that it has not taken back all of its historic range.

While the debate has raged, several attempts have been made to delist the wolf. All those attempts have been met with lawsuits.

In 2012 and 2013, Wisconsin conducted wolf hunting seasons. According to the DNR, 117 wolves were harvested in 2012 and 257 in 2014. A lawsuit and the subsequent re-listing of the Great Lakes timber wolf on the endangered species list abruptly ended those hunts and any further hunting in Michigan, Minnesota and Wyoming.

In November, U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo) introduced a bill to delist the gray wolf in the Midwest and Wyoming.

“After over 30 years of needed protection and professional pack population management, the wolf has made its comeback,” Johnson said. “In 2011, the administration’s Department of the Interior determined the number of wolves in the western Great Lakes states to be sufficient and growing and made the correct decision to delist them as an endangered species.”

In 2014, however, a judge in Washington, D.C., overruled the administration’s wildlife experts. The battle has continued to wage since then.

Senate bill S 2281 and its companion House bill were included in two appropriations measures for the Department of the Interior. However, the wolf delisting riders did not make it into the final omnibus bill.

According to U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble’s office, there is some “wild conjecture” that the House bill will still be voted on, but that remains to be seen.

Supporters had wanted the wolf delisting bill as part of the omnibus package because it would have had a better chance to pass. While separate stand-alone legislation may be in the works, it may then be vetoed or defeated on its own merits.