One Step Forward and Two Back for Endangered Species

In a rare victory for endangered species, the House adopted a floor amendment to the FY 2012 Interior appropriations bill offered by Reps. Norm Dicks (D-WA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) that strips the bill of language that would have eviscerated a core function of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). That excised provision would have barred future endangered species listings and critical habitat designations. Among other crises this would have caused, it would have prevented the FWS from acting to save hibernating bats in the United States, who are dying in alarming numbers due to white-nose syndrome. (In fact, the FWS has already determined that two species of bats “may warrant federal protection” and plans to initiate thorough status reviews.)

Unfortunately, wolves did not fare as well. The bill prohibits lawsuits challenging impending new rules to delist wolves in Wyoming and the Western Great Lakes region. The FWS will be publishing a new rule to delist the Wyoming population as soon as the Wyoming legislature approves a deal struck between the state and the federal government. The Department is currently reviewing comments on its proposal to delist wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well.