The Endangered Species list has always been monitored and managed by an apolitical scientific group. This changed for the first time in history in April 2011 when the United States Congress removed the wolf from the Endangered Species list. The proposal to declare the wolf as not at risk was included in a section of the infamous budget-balancing act, which has made more than a few people scratch their heads: what do endangered species have to do with sound financial planning? The deed was done by Senators from Idaho and Montana where commercial hunting is popular. Coincidentally, the Montana Senator is up for re-election.
The wolf is an apex predator, which means that it has no predators of its own. In short, nothing hunts wolves, although, thanks to politicking, humans are now allowed to. Apex predators are an important part of the natural cycle of life in the wild. Prey species, those animals that have natural predators, are keep from over-populating. In turn, they are kept from devastating ecologies by their vast numbers. A good example is the rabbit in Australia. In 1859, a man released 12 rabbits into the wild. Rabbits are not native to Australia and the environment was not prepared to handle this invasive species. In 1950, there were 600 million rabbits in Australia. Apex predators keep this from happening.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was made into law to protect species from extinction because of “…economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.” Yet that is exactly what wolves have fallen prey to. The decision to remove them from the Endangered Species list (or rather, to allow commercial hunting of them) was not made by scientists, wildlife experts, or conservationists, it was made by politicians, who were very conveniently benefited by the decision. Furthermore, it was not openly proposed and discussed, but rather hidden away in a bill so important that those involved would have no choice but to pass it. This is clearly a case of political maneuvering. Everyone has seen the movie where, to save the sinking ship, the captain must seal off the leaking rooms, dooming the men inside. To do a greater good, a wrong must be done as well. The only reason it was done in this situation is that Senator Jon Tester and Representative Mike Simpson forced it to be so. If they had legitimate evidence of the species’ safety from nature and wildlife experts, they could have presented the unprecedented idea to Congress (remember that Congress has never, in 235 years, taken authority to remove an animal from protected capacity) in its own bill, instead of squirreling it away in the Congressional Budget Act which had to be passed immediately to avoid a government shutdown.
When politics are allowed to influence the treatment of ecosystems, the natural world is in serious danger. The good of species and life forms is no longer dictated by conservation measures, but by the agenda of individuals. We may as well add the planet to the Endangered Species List, although it would probably just be removed by some Senator looking for votes.