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Capito co-sponsors bill that removes gray wolf protections

By JAKE ZUCKERMAN

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R.W.Va., is co-sponsoring a bill designed to fund wildlife conservation in the U.S. while removing gray wolves from protections under the Endangered Species Act.

The Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act would remove gray wolves from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
(Associated Press file photo)

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., introduced the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act, and Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., John Boozman, R-Ark., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. and Capito signed on as co-sponsors.

Specifically, the bill will reauthorize funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Act, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails network, and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program, all until 2023.

In a news release regarding the bill, Capito said the bill will help preserve some of the country’s natural treasures.

“We are so fortunate to live in a country as full of natural beauty and as rich in wildlife as the United States, and it’s important we take steps to preserve those resources,” she said. “This legislative package includes a number of important measures that will help protect our unique ecosystems and enable us to better enjoy our country’s natural gifts, both in wild and wonderful West Virginia and across the country.”

However, the bill also reinstates the removal of federal protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act, pursuant to a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

In a news release, the Center for Biological Diversity brushed aside the bill. The release states although it reauthorizes spending for the funds, it does not actually appropriate them, and the only tangible effect the bill has is removing protections from the gray wolves.

“This legislation won’t help conservation on the ground anywhere — not a single animal or plant will benefit from this horrible legislation,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the group, in the release. “Sadly, Cardin is trading killing thousands of wolves for a largely symbolic effort to help the Chesapeake Bay. This is a disaster.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, authorizations are the first step toward funding an entity before actual appropriations. However, bills regularly receive funding despite expired authorizations.

Recent research from the University of California, Los Angeles, published in Science Advances journal, finds the wolves should still be covered under the act and said the premise for their removal is incorrect. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service applauded the delisting in a news release.

Given the holiday, a spokeswoman from Capito’s office could not be reached to comment for this article.

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