By Adam Jarchow and Cori O’Connor Petersen
Last week, on a bipartisan vote, Congress approved—and President Trump signed—a 2,232-page, $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the federal government funded. Despite the enormous size of the “omnibus” spending bill, it did not include the delisting of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This was a big letdown for families and farmers who are dealing with the fallout from the growing wolf population in several states, but especially those in western and northern Wisconsin.
Leadership of both political parties—Republicans and Democrats—are to blame for continuing to let down rural Wisconsin farmers whose livestock is in danger from an out-of-control wolf population.
Since Wisconsin’s gray wolves were protected by a federal judge under the ESA in 2014, the population reached a record high in 2016-17. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimates there are now at least 925 wolves in Wisconsin. The result has been a steep increase in wolf attacks on hunting dogs and livestock. In 2016 alone, 42 hunting dogs, 31 bovine, and 2 sheep were killed by wolves, resulting in close to $100,000 in tax-payer funded payouts to dog owners alone and nearly $200,000 total for all of the animals killed by wolves.
The delisting of the wolf was originally included in a draft of the omnibus bill which required “Interior to reissue two final rules removing recovered gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes from the endangered species list” and prohibited “Interior from using funds provided by this bill to treat any gray wolf in any of the 48 contiguous states or the District of Columbia as an endangered species or threatened species under the ESA.”
In short, this would have permitted Wisconsin to regulate its wolf population. Purported support for the rider was bipartisan, including Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Republican Rep. Sean Duffy.
Yet the radical left lobbied hard against it. During the omnibus negotiating process last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi purportedly removed the language at the request of Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Nita Lowey (D- NY). The left, the Endangered Species Coalition took a victory lap, tweeting :
“Howls of thanks! RT to thank U.S. Senators and Representatives for keeping policy riders that would have delisted wolves out of the omnibus spending bill. #stopextinction.”
Delisting the gray wolf would not only have been a prudent decision for farmers in Wisconsin but an important delegation of authority back to states like Wisconsin. It is currently up to lawmakers from other states, with no interest or responsibility to the citizens of the Badger State, to determine whether Wisconsin is allowed to manage its own wolf population. While the ESA is an important bulwark for conservation, when there are no constitutional concerns, it is preferable that local concerns and local solutions be governed by representatives closest to the people.
This is a perfect example of how federal overreach can prevent local solutions. Wisconsin legislators would be better at dealing with Wisconsin’s growing wolf population and the threat to livestock and property in the Badger state.
Yet, once again, Congressional inaction prevents Wisconsin from protecting farmers and livestock from wolves.
The omnibus is expected to be the last major legislative action until Congress hits the campaign trail for 2018. But with Congress failing to delist the gray wolf, this could become a major political issue in rural America.
Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) is the state Representative for the 28th Assembly District. Cori O’Connor Petersen is a writer and Research Associate at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL).