Environmental groups say a provision in the compromise budget deal in Congress sets a dangerous precedent for endangered species. Congress expects to vote on the bill today. It includes an amendment to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
Traditionally, animals are removed from the endangered species list only after a battery of assessments that determine they're no longer at risk. Environmental groups say this would be the first time an animal has been de-listed by a vote in Congress, making it more of a political decision than a scientific one.
They argue, if passed, this would allow politicians to pick and choose species for protection.
“We could see folks who are not fans of salmon recovery trying to remove spring Chinook salmon from the Columbia River from endangered species protection. You know similarly in Northern California we could see similar efforts to remove some of the California salmon runs. You know there's a big fear I think across the country that this could really open a Pandora's box,” says Pedery.
Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, says Congress has weighed in on endangered species issues in the past. He pushed for the wolf provision in the Senate appropriations bill because at 1700 wolves, he says the population in the West has rebounded.
“And if we don't manage them, it's going to have some, and it already has had some pretty dramatic impacts on domestic, on livestock because they are the top of the food chain, and if they're not managed it becomes a real problem,” says Tester.
Wolf management in Idaho and Montana has included hunting, and that could resume under the rider.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife did de-list the gray wolf through the usual channels in 2009, but a federal judge struck down the decision. The rider in Congress would block further lawsuits.