The Looming Delisting of the Gray Wolf

Yellowstone Wolf #778 “Big Brown” by Brynn Schmidt

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” – Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

We have spent the last 20 years supporting organizations who have fought to protect wolves across the United States and especially in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. We travel year after year to Yellowstone, especially in winter to view them through a scope, and when extremely lucky, see them up close such as in the photo above. We have watched wolves from over 8 packs throughout the years and cannot image the park without them now. During this time, we have also seen the wolf make a comeback in areas such as Minnesota, Michigan and the Pacific Northwest. It has taken decades to bring the wolf back from the brink of extinction in our country, and now the current administration is planning to delist them from the Endangered Species Act at a time when they are still so vulnerable.

“Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service now with the Defenders of Wildlife, told the AP that protections were needed to prevent “an all-out war on wolves” in states that would allow them to be hunted. “We don’t have any confidence that wolves will be managed like other wildlife,” she said.” – NPR, Trump Administration Seeks to Take Gray Wolf Off Endangered Species List, March 6, 2019

While wolves have made a comeback in some areas, they should not be delisted for a couple of reasons. The first is that they still haven’t reestablished packs in many of the ranges were they once roamed. The second, and more immediate reason is due to unbridled hatred that still exists against them across our country, especially among some ranchers and hunters. If you take a look at Idaho, Wyoming and Montana for example, once wolves were delisted in this area, hunting started immediately. Outside of the national park areas, Wyoming has even deemed them varmints that can be killed on site. (read Sierra Club article here) Without protection, we will see wolves once again vanish from the landscapes except for those who remain within national park boundaries. (Currently during hunting seasons, if a wolf crosses an invisible boundary line from Yellowstone, they can be killed. There is no buffer of protection.)

There is so much that goes into this debate and it would take too long to discuss all the different aspects of this debate. I thought I would list some great articles and organizations here where you can learn more or take action instead. My hope in posting this is that those of you who haven’t been advocates of the wolf in the past could step up and get involved as the Trump Administration attempts to delist them across the country. They are already hunted and killed in large numbers across Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and we will see this increase more in these states and others if they are delisted. Please stand with me to fight this proposed delisting.

Check out these resources to get involved or learn more:

Why Kids Need Adventure and Wilderness and Adventure Now More Than Ever

Let your kids be wild……written by Brynn Schimdt

Photo by Eric Schmidt

These days, our kids’ lives are overscheduled, filled with pressure, and can be pretty intense. School, homework, sports and/or other extracurricular activities fill the week and often consumes many weekends as well. We all can feel like there is no time left to fit anything else in. There has to be. Our younger kids and teenagers need wilderness and adventure in their lives and who better to model it to them than us, their parents. I would actually argue that it is more important than a lot of the scheduled activities we have them in now. Wilderness and adventure will help develop them into well-rounded young adults.

1. Kids need the freedom to learn what life is like without a schedule.

There are so many books out there right now about the next generation and the lives they are living with the pressures that surround them and the belief that they cannot fail. Let them fail in some areas of their lives. The outdoors is a perfect place to learn to try new things. It takes a lot of work to get strong at wilderness activities, but there really is no failure – you just try again. I have found that getting my high school son out to climb, hike, and backpack has been the only thing that has provided him with some balance and perspective. Now that he is climbing regularly and hiking a lot on weekends too, he is starting to view school through a more realistic lens. It definitely helps with our kids that we started them out young and they have grown up living a lot of their lives outdoors. However, it is never too late. Take your kids out so they can actually just sit and watch a sunset instead of seeing it out the car window on the way to a game or academic event.

2. Kids of all ages need a connection to nature.

There is no substitute to exploring the natural world around us. While not all children have easy access to nature, there are many programs in cities that serve to get children involved with nature. If you are a parent who has access to wilderness around you, engage your children in it. This can range from something as simple as going on your first beginner hike (look them up right here on the Outbound Collective – there are most likely some right in your area) to cross-country skiing, backpacking, or photographing nature.

Photo by Eric Schmidt

3. Kids need time to kick back and relax.

Provide them with boredom. Make them figure out how to entertain themselves when they are in a wilderness setting. One of my sons used to spend half a day building rock structures at the campsite or river. My older son kicks back in his hammock and just rests after hiking while staring up at the sky. That’s it. Nothing exciting, but so good for them.

4. Kids need to figure out how to exist without technology.

Seriously, I cannot even begin to list all of the things that suck up our kids’ time when they are at home. If you have younger kids, it is often ipads, video games or TV. With older kids there is the computer they need for their schoolwork and research, texting, social media and on and on. Take them to places where there is no cell service at all. I am totally serious. If they have phones, they will learn to take photos of their adventures and the beauty around them since nothing else will work on those devices they cannot let go of. They will probably gain a real appreciation for nature. Show them that not only can they survive without technology, but they can thrive and love the time away.

5. Kids must be taught the importance of conservation.

In my opinion, the next generation isn’t going to have the option of not conserving our resources. Teach them how to do it now and model it constantly for them. We have a huge role to play here. Take them out where there are national forest and park rules about feeding animals, litter, packing in and packing it out, etc. Help them learn how important the natural world is.

The Current Attack on the Endangered Species Act

Photo by Eric Schmidt

written by Brynn Schmidt for The Outbound Collective, February 20, 2017 – posted March, 2019 as the conversation is still very relevant.

While the Endangered Species Act (ESA) enacted by Congress in 1973 is not perfect, the changes Republicans are calling for would be catastrophic for our endangered wildlife. Under the Trump Administration and Republican-controlled congress, it is looking like the act is headed for the hardest fight of its 44 year life. The reason there is hope is that the majority of our citizens support the ESA. “‘Animals are awesome’ is the only safe topic of conversation most American families have left. Left-right, old-young, black-white, Americans agree: Four legs, good” (Peter Weber, The Week)

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a law that exists in our country to protect endangered and threatened wildlife, as well as critical habitat for these animals. At a basic level, the act seems pretty straight-forward and has been a success at savings many species. A few well known species that would most likely have gone extinct without the protection of the act are the Bald Eagle, Gray Wolf, Manatee, Whooping Crane, Grizzly Bear, Florida Panther and Peregrine Falcon. The ESA has meant life or death for many animals and plant life as well and overall is a law the the majority of people in our country support. A 2015 survey shows over 90 percent of Americans from both political parties support the Endangered Species Act. (the Endangered Species Coalition and Audubon). This act is absolutely critical and without it we would lose species that would forever impact the future of our planet. 

“Forty-four years ago, the most important wildlife-conservation law in American history passed the U.S. Senate with a vote of 92 to 0. “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed,” President Richard Nixon said after ratifying the Endangered Species Act (ESA).” – Brian Palmer, Audubon

The ESA is under attack by Republicans based on the parts in the law that protect land and prohibit oil, drilling, mining, logging and some landowners’ rights. If an endangered species exists in a certain area, that habitat is protected. The Republicans feel there is an issue of ‘take” where landowners can lose their own property rights due to some endangered species found on it. I will briefly get into this a little more later and do believe there are ways this can be improved. However, right now, we have to fight to keep the act from being gutted where these species will lose all their protection. This is happening right now in Congress with the first meeting to dismantle the act last week and we ask that you join us in making your voice heard in any way.

Without getting too far into the weeds of this act and the problems it is facing, let me start with explaining the basic purpose. There are three main purposes of the ESA. The first is to protect species that are listed as “endangered”. These species are likely to become extinct without protection of their habitat and working to create habitat corridors for the animals to move through. The second are called “threatened” species. These are species that are likely to become endangered in the future but are not yet, therefore they do not have as much protection. The third part is protecting what is considered “critical habitat” – the land needed to save the animals.

The ESA is continually under attack under Republican-controlled Congresses, even though it was a Republican president who signed it into law. Currently, within the first four weeks of the Trump Administration, congress has introduced several bills to weaken the act. As of right now, “14 attorney generals are asking the Trump administration to revise the law. Meanwhile, long-time ESA nemesis Rep. Bob Bishop (R-UT) is threatening to repeal it.” – Brian Palmer, Audubon While a complete repeal would be difficult with the general support it has across the nation, changes could be made to weaken it that would be almost as catastrophic. Those attacking the act want to take the land back and reduce the laws that protect land for species endangered. However, if the land protection (critical habitat) is reduced significantly, so is the protection of the species.

While the ESA definitely makes it difficult for landowners who find they have listed endangered species on their land, I do believe there are ways to work together as environmentalists and land owners to improve it. One such compromise was added to the ESA by my previous boss who owned an environmental law firm in CA. I was involved in working with him regarding the act and housing developers and saw how it could be done successfully. He helped created Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) which allowed land owners to work within the act to create wildlife corridors and access for use some of their lands while still protecting part of their land for protection of species. This is just one example of how groups worked together (the county of Orange, environmentalists, home builders, etc). I believe from what I have learned when I worked in this field that there are other options – they take time and are expensive, but they can help both land owners and keep our species protected. This starts getting a little off topic and if you are interested you can find articles regarding these issues. The most important take away, however, is that we cannot afford to let these species lose their protection. The ESA has been an American success story and protecting our species – both animal and plant – is extremely important to the huge majority of our population. However, Congress does not seem to be concerned with what the majority of Americans feel about this act and are working more with lobbyists and oil and mining companies to try to dismantle it.

“Then Endangered Species Act is the world’s gold standard” for government conservation. Ashe said. “It’s not perfect. It can be better. Your goal is to make it…stronger and better. (Darryl Fears, The Washington Post)

What can you do to help? Here are some easy ways to have an impact on protecting the ESA: 

How to Contact Congress

Take Action at Audubon Society by adding your name and information to their petition to protect the act. 

Take Action on Variety of Environmental Attacks through the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC)

Call your local congress representatives and let them know that you disapprove of any gutting of the ESA. 

It does appear that this administration pulls back when large numbers of citizens speak their voices and concerns and overwhelm their representatives. Let’s work on doing that agin to protect this act and the environment in general.