Gray wolves legislatively delisted: what's the big deal?


Author:  Damien M. Schiff

When President Obama approved Congress's budget for 2011 a few weeks ago, he also signed into law a budget rider that legislatively removed most of the Northern Rockies distinct population segment of gray wolf from the lists of protected species under the Endangered Species Act (the bill does not affect protections for the wolf in Wyoming; but note that a federal district court in Wyoming has already overturned the Service's decision not to delist the wolf in Wyoming).  Not surprisingly, the environmentalists are up in arms about the legislative delisting.

I frankly don't understand the reason for the uproar.  The principal criticism of the legislative delisting appears to be that Congress should not insert political considerations into what is at bottom a scientific assessment.  For example, the New York Times, in a critical oped, ominously queried:  "Now that politics has been allowed to trump science when it comes to the gray wolf, which species will be next?"  But this criticism misses the larger point that the decision to protect endangered species at all is a political one; and that the decision to treat all endangered species alike is also a political decision.  In some respects, the environmentalists' attacks on the gray wolf delisting reveal an approach to politics not all that dissimilar from that espoused by the Progressives of the early twentieth century, who believed that good government depended upon giving significant leeway and power to professional expert bureaucrats.