Monday, October 21, 2019

Vox uses wolves to explain a shortcoming of the Endangered Species Act

Two months ago, I opened Trump administration weakening enforcement of Endangered Species Act with an apparent contradiction.
One would think that the United Nations report warning that one million species could go extinct in the next century, which I last mentioned in Verge Science and Depeche Mode on the Insect Apocalypse, would elicit more concern among people and their governments about saving endangered species.  That doesn't seem to be the case in the United States, or at least with the Trump administration, which is thinking of weakening the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Vox returned to the Trump administration's laxer enforcement of the ESA in today's The problem with the endangered species list, which focused on the controversy around delisting the gray wolf.

When are we done protecting the gray wolf?
When European settlers first came to America they were set on “civilizing” the land. This meant a lot of rash, sweeping changes — one of which was to eradicate a familiar target: the gray wolf. Bounties were placed on the animal across the US. By the1930s, the once plentiful wolf population was decimated.

Decades later, restorations efforts have led to an extensive recovery of the animal. The Fish and Wildlife Service thinks we’ve done enough, but conservationists say our work is far from done.
Vox has more in Trump’s plan to take wolves off the endangered species list is deeply flawed, which includes the following paragraph with which I agree.
“In our view, this proposal is premature because wolf recovery in the lower 48 states is not yet complete,” says Zack Strong, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group. “Wolves have not yet returned to significant areas where they once existed historically and where there is still suitable habitat.”
Watching and reading about the issues about getting wolves and people to coexist reminded me of a comment thread from the first year of this blog.
[Me:] The last year I lived out in the country, the deer ate my shrubs up to the seven foot level. Good thing they were eight feet tall at the time. I vowed that if I were still in my house the next firearms deer season, I'd finally break down and buy a rifle and a deer hunting license. Fortunately for the deer, my house sold that April, so I didn't have to follow through.

Hey, I was a Republican for 22 years. Some habits die hard.

[Andrea G:] No, you're exactly right. In most parts of the U.S. we have wiped out the top predator (wolves), so now there are too many deer. The hunting lobby likes it that way, as a response to the narrow window of time in which it's legal to hunt. So, in the long run we have two options: Reintroduce wolves and persuade people not to shoot them, or eat the deer ourselves until their population reaches a more natural level. In the mean time, our forests are being overgrazed.
[Me:] Getting more hunters and eating more deer is the response I expect. Actually re-introducing wolves would be too much for most people. On the other hand, allowing wolves to spread on their own, which is happening, and then convincing people to leave them alone might be doable.
The conflict between people that want to accept wolves and those that think that eliminating them was a good idea is still playing out, as evidenced by the dueling initiatives to ban wolf hunting and reinstate it five years ago.  Banning the wolf hunt won, but it was made moot by a court ruling overturning the decision to delist wolves in Michigan.  I expect more legal drama from any decision by the Trump administration to delist wolves this time, too.

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