Democratic Senators Against Wolves: Why the ESA is in Deep Trouble. As I discuss in my book Wildlife Politics, the Endangered Species Act was passed during the Nixon Administration due to the fact that Republicans and conservatives did not see it as a threat to their economic interests but that situation changed very soon afterwards with the snail darter case. Since then, conservatives and Republicans have targeted this “macho law” for defanging, allowing states to have control over decisions and (unlike the current ESA) allowing protections to be vetoed to economic costs. Now that Republicans control both the Presidency and Congress, they are moving several bills that will defang the ESA, allowing states and powerful economic interests to veto any conservation effort that threatens their interests. One would hope that Democrats, home to a large portion of the environmentalist community, would defend the ESA by doing everything in their power to resist what would be a disaster for biodiversity conservation including filibustering if necessary. However, when you study the voting record of Democratic Senators such as Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, you realize that support for the ESA and environment is weak—these two senators are far more afraid of hunter-ranchers than the environmental community. Both of them have joined with Republicans to “eliminate protections for Great Lakes states’ wolves” as well as preventing judicial review of the harmful effects of these measures for wolves. Hunters and ranchers are a significant voter group in both Minnesota and Wisconsin so it is not surprising that senators, Democrat or Republican, would pay attention to their demands. However, environmentalists in either of these states far outnumber hunters and ranchers in both states. However, the salience of the issue of wolves for hunters and ranchers is high while, up until now, the issue does not have the same priority for those who would defend the ESA and species like wolves. What can be done to raise environmental concerns to a higher priority? Environmental disasters? Imminent demise of a species like wolves? Public service ads by environmental groups? I have no easy answers to this question which is why I fear that the ESA is in deep danger. The underlying problem is that people who see themselves losing something such as cattle or right to hunt wherever they want feel more strongly than those who support a positive goal such as conservation. Let us be clear: a “defanged” ESA that allows economic interests to outweigh the threat to species is not a true “Endangered Species Act”—instead, it would be a return to the situation that existed before the passage of the ESA in 1973. Check out articles about the voting position concerning wolves of Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota at http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/opinion/4322061-statewide-view-wrongheaded-anti-wolf-legislation-threatens-wildlife-americans-rights#.Wa60Jq2JmfU.twitter and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin at http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2017/02/15/falk-proposal-delist-wolves-will-lead-problems/97964298/
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