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Public Statements

Free Flow of Information Act of 2007--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION ACT OF 2007--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - July 30, 2008)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

PREDATOR WOLVES

Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, for the next few moments, I wish to change the pace of our debate on the floor of the Senate. I am pleased the Senator from Montana is now the Presiding Officer in the Senate because I want to tell that Senator I am a cosponsor of a piece of legislation he and the Senator from Wyoming have introduced that would provide grants to Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, and to tribes and other States, at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior, to support landowner actions to prevent livestock predation, and to compensate landowners for a loss of livestock by gray wolves and other predator species.

Why would I come to the floor of the Senate and want to talk about wolves? Well, let me tell you what happened in the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming in 1995.

In my opinion, the Secretary of the Interior at that time, Secretary Bruce Babbitt, Secretary to the administration of Bill Clinton, did something that I said at the time I believed to be a direct violation of Federal law and congressional intent. He allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to go into Canada, collect Canadian gray wolves, bring them into the lower 48, and in the late fall or early winter of 1995, he dropped 15 of those wolves into a wilderness area in Idaho--certainly satisfying the wishes of a lot of environmental interests, but, in my opinion, directly violating the language of an Interior appropriations bill, language that I and the then Senator from Montana, Mr. Conrad Burns, had put in the bill saying: None of these moneys shall be used for the purposes of introducing gray wolves into Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Well, Bruce Babbitt did it, with great fanfare, with great public attention, and with a very large smile on his face.

Then, in 1996, he introduced another 20 wolves into central Idaho. What is the end result of what happened? This was the effort to do what we called the introduction of an experimental number of wolves back into a habitat that wolves once roamed wild in. It was supposed to be a limited experiment of what we called an experimental herd or pack, or packs, of wolves, an experimental species, and it was to be limited. We said at that time that when the number reached a certain number--at least 100 breeding pairs in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming--it would no longer be experimental, and it would no longer be endangered, and the extraordinary protection of the Endangered Species Act would come off.

That simply did not happen. Today, we literally have thousands of wolves roaming the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Some would say: Oh, isn't that wonderful, and isn't that exciting, and isn't that natural? Well, it may be natural in relation to 1880 or 1890, and it may be wonderful for some who behold the dream of an unoccupied great West. But to those of us who live in the West today, who live in an occupied area, where domestic livestock graze, and where the human species loves to camp, we have a problem. Our problem is quite simple. Wolves protected have no predator. The human species is the only predator. And in the absence of our ability to control them, they multiply very rapidly in an unlimited area with an unlimited feed source. Their feed or food source--their prey base--happens to be what was once the great elk herds of Idaho along with our deer population. And now, as they have begun to decimate those populations, they are beginning to pick off domestic livestock, both cattle and sheep, that graze on these public lands.

This map I have in the Chamber demonstrates, from the 35 wolves that were dumped into Idaho in 1995 and 1996--in approximately this area--the phenomenal spread that has occurred across the entire State of Idaho, into Montana, and down into Wyoming, in areas where we believe there could well be more than 3,000 wild roaming wolves.

So the Department of Interior then said: It is now time we delist these wolves. We thought that was going to work until again a judge, who probably knows nothing about wolves, listened to a couple environmental groups, and said: I don't think we ought to allow that to happen. As a result, all of that effort was stopped. But still the taking of domestic livestock--both cattle and sheep--continues to this day.

I have served on the Appropriations Committee. In the absence of us doing the right and responsible thing, I kept adding money every year not only for the management and the shaping of these wolf populations, but also to offer some compensation to ranchers--both cattle and sheep--who were losing their livestock.

The Senator from Montana, who is presiding at this moment, the Senator from Wyoming and I have joined--they have introduced the legislation; I am a cosponsor--to hopefully bring about a stabilized fund to offset the literally hundreds of thousands of dollars our ranchers are now losing, all in the good name of Secretary Bruce Babbitt of the Clinton administration, who had the wonderful dream that he could take a West once unoccupied by the human species and repopulate it with a wolf.

Need I say more? A wolf is not a kind, sweet, and cuddly little animal. They are large. They are aggressive. They drag down elk, moose, deer. And they are now beginning, as I have said, to take domestic livestock.

A week ago, a young man, who was out training his hounds by chasing bear, ran into a pack of wolves. The wolves chased the guy off and killed all the hounds. Some of these well-trained hounds are worth $4,000 and $5,000 apiece. There was absolutely nothing that gentleman could do. Could he shoot the wolves? No. No, it is against the law, the Federal law, that he dare touch them. So he had to watch his beloved dogs eaten.

That is happening more and more every day in Idaho, as this map grows more and more covered with incidents of packs and individual and collective numbers of wolves. It is true in my State of Idaho. It is true in the State of the Senator from Montana. It is certainly true in Wyoming.

As we try to bring these wolf populations under control, we have interest groups and a Federal judge who raps his gavel and says: No.

The State of Idaho is attempting, under this Secretary of the Interior, and others, to take reasonable and responsible control of them, and to once again shape these populations of wolves so wolves can once again be in Idaho and, at the same time, to recognize the need to maintain populations of elk and deer is what we want to do. And it is what the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Commission and Fish and Wildlife agencies were doing in a responsible way--until, once again, a Federal judge intervenes, who knows little to nothing about the species itself, or probably the law, and says: I guess maybe that environmental group is right. Maybe we need more wolves so we get a genetically clear balance. We are more interested in the genetics of the wolf than we are the decimation of the elk herds, the deer populations, and the domestic livestock.

I have said with great trepidation, but I say in all sincerity: Do we have to wait until a wolf drags down a human species before there is a sense of alarm? Because they have now penetrated all of Idaho. They are literally in our backyards. Yet the romance goes on about this great dream of a wild West where you can hear the lonesome wolf howl at night. And they are howling. They are howling loudly right in our backyards. And a blind Federal agency and a blind Federal judge and a romantic environmental theory says that is OK.

It is tragic for the wolf because, ultimately, these populations will have to be brought under control. It is tragic for Idahoans and folks in Montana and Wyoming to see their pets and their domestic livestock dragged down and killed, with little if anything they can do about it.

I hope my colleagues would support S. 2875, as a minimal stopgap to provide these domestic livestock operators with some compensation for the losses they are now taking because Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior under the Clinton administration, had a wonderful and wild western dream.

I yield the floor.


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