I am writing you this letter as a simple citizen and wildlife advocate. I do not have access to big money donors, political parties, or special interest groups. Because of that this letter may not even be read by you or your staff, but I am going to try anyway.
Mr. President, I write this letter as a once hopeful but now jaded person that considers myself as a political progressive. This is especially true when it comes to the protection of the environment and our wildlife. When you were running for office and upon your eventual election there was an overwhelming sense of hope that you were going to be the environmental president that we have longed for since the days of Bruce Babbitt and the Clinton Administration. Those hopes began to dim upon your appointment of Ken Salazar, a rancher, to head the Department of Interior. Almost immediately Mr. Salazar, apparently with your blessing, decided to work on stripping protections from the gray wolf in various parts of the country despite overwhelming evidence that the states would implement reckless eradication level hunting seasons on them immediately upon delisting. This occurred right away of course in Idaho and Montana in 2009 until a federal judge placed the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies back on the Endangered Species List thus halting the “legal” killings.
While wolves in the Northern Rockies were back under Endangered Species Act protections it became apparent that your administration would use them as a bargaining chip to protect the seats of anti-wildlife “Democrats” like Senator Tester of Montana and others of his ilk. Again, apparently with your blessing, wolves became a political bargaining chip and a “rider” was placed in a “must pass” spending bill in 2011 that stripped ESA protections from gray wolves in much of the Northern Rockies. Perhaps most insulting of all is the fact that you signed this legislation containing a provision that the law could not be reviewed by our judicial system. Not only did this “rider” help to weaken the Endangered Species Act it also was a slap in the face to our system if “checks and balances.” As expected Idaho and Montana immediately resumed their revenge/wholesale killing of gray wolves now that there was no threat of federal intervention thanks to the “rider” you signed. That wholesale killing and push for eradication of the species by Idaho and Montana continues to this day and wildlife advocates fear that it will be only a matter of time, despite the highly dubious population counts the states provided, before the species is pushed to the brink of a second eradication. You allowed this, Mr. President.
Mr. President, now we come to the part that is near and dear to my heart and to my fellow wildlife advocates in the Great Lakes states. In January of 2012 your Department of Interior, again pushed by Mr. Salazar, delisted gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. The very day that the delisting was official anti-wolf legislators in Wisconsin introduced a bill that would open an immediate hunting and trapping season on them that fall. The bill also allowed the use of dogs against wolves. The bill passed and in October of 2012 the reckless killing of wolves began in the state of Wisconsin. Minnesota also began a furious killing season that fall that would lead to a massive drop in population numbers in that state. What myself and wildlife advocates find most disturbing is how the federal government, and USFWS in particular, have washed their hands completely of wolves and the reasons why they were placed on the Endangered Species List to begin with. Wisconsin has essentially legalized dog fighting by allowing packs of vicious dogs to be used against our small wolf population 24/7/365 under the guise of “training.” This doesn’t include when dogs were actually allowed to be used as part of the killing of wolves prior to U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell’s December 2014 ruling that placed the Great Lakes wolves back under ESA protections. How can legalized 24/7/365 dog fighting not be cause for alarm for both yourself and especially the USFWS? Is your administration not aware of this or even more alarmingly not care?
The gray wolf holds a special significance among not only wildlife advocates like myself but among the Native American Tribes that live in Wisconsin and neighboring states. For your administration, in particular your appointee to head the USFWS Dan Ashe, to be so callus and indifferent to the species is not only concerning it is frankly offensive. In 2014 Mr. Ashe made this comment: (he believes that conservationists) “must accept a world with fewer wolves, salmon, and spotted owls.”
Is this what YOU believe, Mr. President? Despite your weakening of the ESA by signing the anti-wolf “rider” and the delisting of Great Lakes wolves wildlife advocates and environmentalists still supported you in 2012. Frankly, many of us have regretted that decision and the wishy washy attitude toward the ESA gutting “riders” in the current batch of Congressional Appropriations Bills has us even more concerned. Will wolves once again be used as a political bargaining tool? Will environmentalists once again be ignored and have our faces spit in again after offering you and the Democratic Party our full support over the years?
While wolves are at the center of the debate now, this is not just about wolves. Do you want to be remembered as the president that allowed the Endangered Species Act to be gutted through sneaky and unscientific Congressional “riders?” What many of us in the environmental and wildlife advocacy community do not understand is how you can talk about climate change and the danger to our ecosystem while not standing up at all for our wildlife? Your Department of Interior and especially USFWS has been openly hostile toward wildlife such as wolves and shows an indifferent attitude toward imperiled species all over the world. For your administration to talk about the out of control poaching of rhinos and elephants and then allow a wealthy trophy hunter to kill one of the most imperiled species on the planet for a head to hang on a wall tells me that hypocrisy is the order of the day for your Department of Interior.
I, and many others like me, WILL NOT accept a world with fewer wolves, salmon, and spotted owls, and why should we? I do not have the influence of SCI, NRA, or the myriad of other anti-wildlife groups that seem to be influencing the decision making of the USFWS. I am just a simple citizen that cares about those that do not have a voice. That is our wildlife. Killing is NOT conservation and I am frankly disturbed that your administration seems to have accepted that the ESA and the protection of domestic and international wildlife can be used as political bargaining chips or as rewards for wealthy trophy hunting practitioners. A real progressive would never conceive of doing such a thing and the Democratic Party of today has become the party of panderers that will sell out our bedrock environmental laws in the hopes of getting a couple of rural votes. That is not the type of party that I want to be affiliated with.
Mr. President you still have time to change your legacy and protect what remains of our domestic wildlife and wildlife across the world. Wolves are just one example of how a species that means so much to so many have been sold out for “potential” political gains. I ask that you reconsider your administration’s stance on gray wolves and consider appointing department heads that actually care about the wildlife that they are tasked with protecting. Do you really wish to be known as the president that destroyed the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act, and started the second expiration of gray wolves from our landscape? Wolves have enough hostility from ignorant and greedy hunters and big agriculture interests. They do not need it from our elected leaders that we put so much faith in as well. I ask that you please do the right thing Mr. President and stop this assault and indifference toward our wolves and other wildlife. When our wildlife is gone it may not be long before we follow. Then again, as your actions suggest, you do not care in the slightest about wildlife. Please prove me wrong.