Thank you for contacting me to share your views on the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation (HELP) for Wildlife Act. I appreciate you taking the time to make me aware of your concerns on this important matter.
When the historic Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed into law in 1973, the gray wolf population in the United States was near extinction. Following years of careful management under the ESA, the gray wolf population steadily increased and gradually recovered to the point where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) attempted to remove certain subtypes of gray wolves from the agency’s endangered species list under a process known as delisting.
FWS efforts to roll back gray wolf protections began under the Bush Administration and continued through the Obama Administration. However, FWS efforts to delist the gray wolf have proven controversial. Several Federal Courts have found the FWS violated the ESA each time it sought to remove gray wolf protections, forcing the agency to reverse course.
Effective wildlife conservation policy decisions must be based on scientific facts and accurate data. This includes following the legal process established by the ESA to make sure delisting decisions are transparent, reasonable and supported by evidence – critical factors that FWS has failed to meet when it comes to protecting the gray wolf.
However, supporters of FWS’ efforts to delist the gray wolf have sought to bypass the long-standing process mandated by the ESA by attaching controversial riders to various bills that would simply force the delisting of the gray wolf and block any Federal Court from reviewing the action. The most recent example occurred when this type of anti-wolf provision was slipped into the bipartisan HELP for Wildlife Act.
The HELP for Wildlife Act should not be a controversial measure. This bipartisan bill is primarily composed of five critically important, yet non-controversial, reauthorizations of important wildlife conservation laws. Reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Act, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Great Lakes Fishery Research and Authorization Act is vital to restoring our Nation’s wetlands, preserving our freshwater fisheries, protecting wildlife habitats and safeguarding migratory birds.
In addition, the HELP for Wildlife Act includes critical funding increases for preserving and protecting the Great Lakes. Significantly increasing conservation funding will greatly enhance the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s ability to fulfill its mission, which includes preventing our Great Lakes from being overrun by a harmful invasive species, Asian Carp. Failure to stop Asian Carp will result in tragic, irreparable damage to the Great Lakes and threatens to forever destroy this magnificent habitat.
That is why I worked to make sure my amendment authorizing the Great Lakes Science Center was included in the bill. This authorization would restore basic fishery scientific research capabilities, promote the development of advanced technology to combat invasive species, support world-class aquatic laboratories that are vital to restoring native species and modernize general fishery management policy-making for the Great Lakes.
I was deeply disappointed that a slim majority of members on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee succeeded in forcing the inclusion of the anti-gray wolf rider language in the HELP for Wildlife Act. Since entering Congress, I have consistently opposed and voted against these anti-gray wolf efforts. That is why I voted to remove the gray wolf delisting requirement when the Committee considered the HELP for Wildlife Act and was dismayed when our pro-wolf amendment fell one vote short of adoption.
I understand why some urged me to vote against advancing the HELP for Wildlife Act over the gray wolf delisting mandate, no matter how much valuable, pro-conservation policy was also included in this comprehensive legislative package. However, I was not willing to risk the reauthorization of critical conservation laws. After careful consideration, I agreed to support advancing the bill to the full Senate for further debate and consideration, while remaining committed to fighting the inclusion of the harmful gray wolf delisting requirement in the final version of the bill.
My willingness to compromise and work in a bipartisan manner to advance the HELP for Wildlife Act out of committee should not be viewed as support for delisting the gray wolf. I strongly opposed, and will continue to oppose, including this controversial requirement in what is otherwise a non-controversial package of critically important conservation measures. As your Senator, I have made my opposition to the gray wolf delisting requirement clear to leadership in both parties. Please know that I will work to remove this rider from the HELP for Wildlife Act before the Senate considers and debates the bill on the floor.
Thank you again for contacting me on this important issue. If you would like more information on my work in the Senate, please visit my website at www.duckworth.senate.gov. You can access my voting record and see what I am doing to address today’s most important issues. I hope that you will continue to share your views and opinions with me and let me know whenever I may be of assistance to you.