President Obama’s Legacy: The End of the Endangered Species Act?

Wolf_by_Brooks_Falls

“Wolf by Brooks Falls” by BlackburnPhoto from Overland Park, KS, USA – Wolf by Brooks Falls.

There is no other way to put this so I will be blunt. For all of our hand wringing about Congress likely stripping protections from gray wolves and actively working to undermine the Endangered Species Act itself one thing has been made abundantly clear: the Obama Administration has already destroyed the Act right under our noses and it apparently took seven years for anyone to notice. The Guardian Newspaper, out of the United Kingdom, reported yesterday some sobering and frankly horrifying information about the gross failure of the USFWS to uphold the tenants of the ESA and to protect imperiled species as is their responsibility. Instead the USFWS under current Director Dan Ashe, current Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and former DOI Secretary “Cowboy” Ken Salazar, has actively pursued policies that favor ranchers, hunting groups, developers, and big energy interests to the detriment of each and every species allegedly under ESA protections.

From the Guardian article:

The US government has not halted a single project out of the 88,000 actions and developments considered potentially harmful to the nation’s endangered species over the past seven years, a new study has found.

An analysis of assessments made by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the agency very rarely used its powers to intervene in projects that could imperil any of the US’s endangered plants and animals, which currently number almost 1,600.

Of 88,000 actions assessed by the FWS between January 2008 and April 2015, just two triggered significant further action. A 2007 plan to drop fire retardant in California was deemed by the FWS to be prohibitively harmful to forest-dwelling endangered species, although this was challenged in court. The FWS also stepped in over a plan to divert water from the San Francisco Bay Delta due to concerns over the impact to threatened fish.

88,000 projects that threatened species under ESA protection and only TWO were stopped? At those two were stopped under the Bush Administration which was certainly no friend to wildlife. Red flags were apparent both before and after President Obama was elected. At no time during his campaign or after did any element of the environment come into play except for the political buzzwords of the climate change movement. Obama appeared completely apathetic toward wildlife and their very survival. This was further confirmed with his selection of rancher and former Senator “Cowboy” Ken Salazar from Colorado. Salazar immediately continued Bush administration plans to delist wolves in the Northern Rockies, the Great Lakes, and Wyoming despite strong scientific evidence advising against a delsiting for all of these areas. When a federal court stepped in and relisted wolves in the Rockies the Obama Administration allowed a “rider” to be attached to a must pass budget bill in 2011 that stripped ESA protections from the gray wolf, blocked any court challenge, and led to all out eradication policies from the states of Montana and especially Idaho. The only safeguards remaining for wolves in this region is a provision that if they drop BELOW 150 in the entire region they “may” be relisted.

Then Salazar, and newly appointed Director of the USFWS, Dan Ashe, set their sites on delisting wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming. Wyoming was not included in the 2011 Congressional “rider” delisting because their “management” plan was too toxic for even the anti-wolf congress members and Bush Administration. The Wyoming plan allowed wolves to be killed by any means, at any time, and over the vast majority of the state except for a small area near Yellowstone which would have “regulated” killing under the guise of “hunting seasons.” This plan apparently wasn’t a problem for Obama, Salazar, and Ashe because after a sit down backdoor meeting with Wyoming officials the plan was given the green light and the mass slaughter started almost immediately and lasted until last fall when a federal judge ruled that the Wyoming plan was fatally flawed and resisted wolves under ESA protections in that state.

The same thing played out in Wisconsin in late 2011 and early 2012 when Salazar, Ashe, and the USFWS removed wolves in the Great Lakes from ESA protections and opened the door to over three years of killing season in Wisconsin and Minnesota and one on Michigan. The Wisconsin “management” of the species entailed the 24/7/365 use of hounds against wolves under the guise of “training,” trapping, baiting, electronic calls, and the use of hounds to aid in the killing of wolves during the “hunting seasons.” Once again a federal judge stepped in and relisted the species based on the severely flawed “management plans” of Wisconsin and Minnesota in particular. Like Wyoming, Minnesota allowed for wolves that ventured out of their habitat in the northern part of the state to be killed at will and essentially cut off potential migration routes or any chance that the species could colonize other areas to the south.

Maybe most disturbing of all of the proposals introduced by the USFWS, apparently with the support of President Obama, is to strip ALL ESA protections from gray wolves in the entire United States with the exception of a tiny population of Mexican Gray Wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. Couple this with the refusal of the USFWS to provide ESA protections to wolverines despite only a tiny number living in the United States, and the recent decision to allow hostile states to determine the fate of the imperiled greater sage grouse rather than providing ESA protections. The USFWS also seeks to delist grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone region and once again turn management of an imperiled species to hostile states hellbent on killing them.

This is what the legacy of the Obama Administration will be when it comes to wildlife and the environment. Despite all of the meaningless lip service that the president pays to climate change and “agreements” allegedly to fight it, he has shown that wildlife has ZERO place in the world that he envisions and apparently is only a hindrance to the real agenda of his administration. If NOT ONE of 88,000 events that impact endangered species were stopped by the USFWS over SEVEN YEARS what does this tell us about the value Obama and his administration place on endangered species and upholding the Endangered Species Act?

Under President Obama the Endangered Species Act has been reduced to a paper tiger that allows wildlife hostile states to run roughshod over endangered species, threatened lands, and anything that gets in the way of “development,” agriculture, recreational killing, or just happens to “upset” anti-wildlife governors. Nothing illustrates this mindset better than this quote from Obama’s USFWS Director Dan Ashe who in 2014 made a comment at a Montana meeting stating that environmentalists:

“must accept a world with fewer wolves, salmon, and spotted owls.”

Yes, he really said this and nothing better illustrates the complete and utter contempt that the Obama Administration and his Department of Interior has for environmentalists and wildlife advocates. Time and time again his administration has sided with ranchers, hunting groups, developers, and big energy interests while spitting in the faces of wildlife advocates and environmentalists. I regret voting for this man and I am under the impression that most wildlife advocates share this opinion.

While we have been scrambling trying to stop the disgusting wolf delisting “rider” now pending in Congress, it is apparent that the damage has already been done and the Endangered Species Act has been all but destroyed by an apathetic, arrogant, and pandering Administration more concerned with getting insignificant short term political “victories” than preserving imperiled wildlife. I hope that I am wrong and that Congress and the Obama Administration proves me wrong and stands up for wildlife. I am not holding my breath. This administration is poised to go down as the most anti-wildlife one since the introduction of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, signed by of all people, Republican Richard Nixon. What a shame. Those of us in the wildlife advocacy movement had such high hopes for President Obama after what we thought at the time was the disastrous wildlife record of George W. Bush. We could not have been more wrong and felt duped into supporting this president that is on the verge of destroying not only the gray wolf population in the United States but also the bedrock law of species protection, the Endangered Species Act, and for what? A short term budget deal? A few meaningless concessions from the right wing in Congress?

I do not say this lightly when I say that President Obama has failed our wildlife and the Endangered Species Act. I can show you two wolf riders and 88,000 other reasons proving this to be the case.

 

 

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