A Matter of Wildlife and Death

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Last Monday, President Trump signed H.J. Res. 69, a joint House/Senate resolution that nullifies a Fish and Wildlife Service rule published last year. The overturned rule banned “predator control” on or near federal wildlife refuges in Alaska unless, per the Fish and Wildlife Service, “it is determined necessary to meet refuge purposes; is consistent with Federal laws and policy; and is based on sound science in response to a conservation concern.”

Right off the bat, any rule mentioning “sound science” is in trouble under a Trump administration. Add intense opposition from the National Rifle Association, and it’s amazing that it took Congress and Trump this long to attack it.

So what kinds of practices will the Trump administration now allow on our federal wildlife refuges? Activities that include shooting or trapping wolves while in their dens with pups, killing bear cubs or mothers with cubs, hunting for grizzly bears from airplanes, baiting grizzly bears with food, and trapping bears with cruel leg-hold traps or wire snares.

Despite its publicity stunts, this administration doesn’t truly care about conservation. It doesn’t believe wildlife refuges should be managed to protect species or to maintain biodiversity. It’s all about ensuring a maximum yield of prey species like elk, moose, and caribou for the real apex predator: humans. So if having more elk requires killing wolf pups in their dens, then so be it.

To be clear, the Obama administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service rule (which Trump revoked) never tried to stop all hunting. Subsistence hunting in particular, which is sacrosanct in Alaska, was still allowed. What’s changed is that the predators on federal wildlife refuges are now under the control of the state of Alaska. And that makes them prey.

Donald Trump’s election is going to hurt a lot of people, including (as they’re beginning to realize) many who voted for him. But it’s not just humans who will be suffering — it’s all kinds of species. For instance, as one of his first actions upon taking office, new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke overturned a ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle on public lands and waters. Yes, that will save a few bucks for some sportsmen, but it will be a disaster for species like the endangered condor and the bald eagle that ingest toxic lead.

Here’s another example from last week: One of the great endangered-species success stories of the past few decades is the Florida manatee. By the 1970s, only a few hundred manatees survived. Now Florida has more than 6,000. As a result, Trump’s Fish and Wildlife Service removed the manatee from the endangered-species list. Yet manatees face more threats to their long-term survival than ever, including boat strikes, habitat loss, and toxic algae “red tides” exacerbated by climate change. To weaken protections for a species that has barely recovered and is facing increasing threats is dangerously shortsighted.

If you’re as outraged as I am about this (and so many more things this administration has done), then vote. Get active with your local Sierra Club chapter. Donate. Volunteer your time. Your active engagement makes a very positive difference. Because manatees, grizzly bears, and condors can’t vote. They have no say in how we manage their habitat or protect them from their deadliest enemy: us. Only we can do that. So the next time you’re thinking about how to resist what’s happening in Washington, D.C., don’t forget that we’re not just fighting for ourselves. Their future is at stake, too.

Where will the wildlife haters attack next? That’s anybody’s guess, but this might be a good time to tell Congress to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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