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Keep politics out of wolf recovery

Wolves have returned to only about 10 percent of their historic range in the United States.

If you’ve ever seen footage of an animal caught in a trap, you know the terror they experience, and you never want to see it again – but that kind of cruelty is exactly what one Minnesota politician will be an accomplice to if federal protections for the state’s gray wolves are eliminated.

Although wolves have made much progress toward recovery with protections of the Endangered Species Act, they are nowhere near fully recovered. Wolves have returned to only about 10 percent of their historic range in the United States and researchers have identified more than 350,000 square miles of unoccupied suitable wolf habitat including, for example, in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan.

Even so, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is ganging up on these endangered animals alongside fellow lawmakers with bills to remove protections for gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming. The bills – H.R. 424 and S. 164 – would remove federal protections, prevent any review by the courts and turn wolf management over to states dead set on killing wolves.

As a lifelong Minnesotan and an attorney working for more than a decade to stop cruel wildlife exploitation, the prospect of these bills becoming binding law is heartbreaking.

Bills seek to overturn court rulings

The bills seek to overturn court rulings that found wolves still deserve protections under the Endangered Species Act. In the case that returned protections to wolves in the Great Lakes region, the court explained that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s removal of wolf protections was based on “an untenable reading of the ESA” and “flawed findings.” The court identified aggressive killing under state management as one reason that federal protections must be restored.

Indeed, after the Fish and Wildlife Service prematurely removed wolf protections in 2012, Minnesota and Wisconsin immediately moved to open trophy hunts and trapping seasons. State managers in Minnesota established an “unregulated killing zone” in two-thirds of the state where farmers could kill any wolf on their property, while Wisconsin managers pledged to cut the state’s wolf population by more than half to just 350 wolves.

Eradication methods included such inhumane methods as painful steel-jawed leghold traps, strangulation snares and even packs of dogs to chase down wolves. We know trapped animals suffer tremendous pain and distress. Some may try to chew off the caught foot, which can lead to a slow death from blood loss or infection. Animals also suffer from exposure to harsh weather conditions without food, water or shelter, as well as attacks from predators when caught defenseless in a trap. And when dogs are sent after wolves, the results amount to state-sanctioned dog fighting.

Under state management, Minnesota’s wolf population fell by 25 percent. Luckily for us, after the court restored federal protections, our wolves are slowly beginning to rebound. But if these shortsighted bills become law, thousands of wolves in Minnesota and across the Great Lakes region will once again suffer and die under state management.

Shift would set a damaging precedent

Collette Adkins Giese
Collette Adkins

Beyond the harm to wolves, such a dangerous policy shift would damage the Endangered Species Act itself. The Act is one of the most successful environmental laws in existence. It has saved more than 99 percent of species under its protection from extinction and put hundreds on the road to recovery, including iconic animals like bald eagles, humpback whales and, of course, our wolves. These bills set a damaging precedent that wildlife can lose the Act’s life-saving protections for no reason other than being politically unpopular.

Amid the greatest extinction crisis since the dinosaurs were wiped out, we simply cannot afford to turn species protection decisions over to elected officials in Congress who value their own re-election and short-term economic gains over the nation’s long-term environmental and economic security.

Wolf populations should not be managed merely to keep ranchers and hunters happy. This is not how Americans – or Minnesotans – want their natural heritage treated. Because the states cannot be trusted to effectively and humanely manage wolves, the federal government needs to retain its authority over wolves and these delisting bills must be defeated.

Collette Adkins is Senior Attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. She received her law degree from the University of Minnesota.


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Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Greg Price on 01/31/2017 - 08:58 am.

    Get real….

    Wolf populations are at an all time high in the continental US. These are not cuddly cute little fluff-toys…they will kill and eat your pet dogs and cats if given the opportunity.

    They have devastated the deer herd in Northern Minnesota as well…

    Let the MN DNR manage the wolves….they are the ones closest on the ground…have the local experience and know the conditions.

    The “Center for Biological Diversity” is based in Tucson AZ. How would they know MN conditions or populations?


    Greg Price

    • Submitted by Lynn B on 01/31/2017 - 12:20 pm.

      The Center for Biological Diversity may be headquartered in Arizona, but Collette Adkins is based out of Minneapolis, and has taught at the University of Minnesota’s law school. The CBD also has a person up in Duluth as well. Say what you will about the merits of her argument, but you can’t claim she doesn’t know Minnesota conditions or populations.

    • Submitted by Helen Hunter on 01/31/2017 - 03:06 pm.

      You get real

      and cut those words “cuddly” and “fluffy” and the rest of your sneering tone.
      You don’t state your interest. Are you a farmer, a hunter?
      I’m neither, but my parents dairy-farmed until I was six and my father and brothers all hunted. I have some knowledge of and empathy for farmers, no empathy for hunters unless they’re hunting from necessity, to eat and feed others.
      That said, there are many reasons to care about wild animals, including predators, not being subjected to purposeful killing. “Balance of nature” is already unbalanced wherever humans with guns live. The Endangered Species Act helps restore that balance.
      I quote from Atty Adkins’ article:
      “(In restoring Federal protection to wolves) the court identified aggressive killing under state management as one reason that federal protection must be restored…after the Fish and Wildlife Service prematurely removed wolf protection in 2012, Minnesota and Wisconsin immediately moved to open trophy hunting and trapping seasons.”

    • Submitted by Michael Eddy on 01/31/2017 - 04:41 pm.

      Wolf population’s.

      Really! At an all time high? Ridiculous! We have a population of 45.. Other populations of wolves are being obliterated by callous hunter’s and the usual unevolved moron’s that couldn’t spell ecosystem if they tried. Most bow down and obligate the cattle rancher’s who allow their cattle to graze on public lands. There in lies a big problem. Maybe a bit of proper unbiased research could educate you to the truth.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/07/2017 - 08:18 am.

        Not exactly 45…

        From MPR:

        “A minimum of 5,600 gray wolves now live in the United States outside of Alaska, according to the International Wolf Center. Of those, roughly 3,700 live in the upper Midwest. Minnesota’s wolf population is estimated at 470 packs and 2,423 animals, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.”

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 02/01/2017 - 07:13 am.

      You do realize

      There isn’t supposed to BE a deer herd in Northern MN. That its entirley the product of human habitat alteration and hunting elk, moose, and caribou nearly to extinction at the turn of the 20th century right? But then you probably suppose you have a RIGHT to shoot a wall hanger buck every season, with the least effort possible required.

  2. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 01/31/2017 - 09:57 am.


    That darned Amy Klobuchar, she is an environmental catastrophe! And the state of Minnesota? Why they want the only wolves in the state to be stuffed and sitting in a room at the Bell Museum!

    The title of this piece:

    “Keep politics out of wolf recovery”

    Is followed by a justification of politics. The MN DNR hires trained and accomplished wildlife biologists who have as their goal a healthy and diverse environment that drive no species to extinction. The idea that the DNR has extinction as a goal is unhinged rhetoric. Why does body mass determine cruelty: where is the outrage for those killing and maiming mouse traps?

  3. Submitted by Elanne Palcich on 01/31/2017 - 03:26 pm.

    Who’s calling the shots?

    If anyone thinks that the DNR is protecting our wildlife and environment, please think again. The DNR considers hunters and trappers to be their “clients.” The DNR gets money to operate from hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses. You may have noticed that the DNR is in the process of raising all such fees due to lack of funding.
    It’s unfortunate that our agencies are not protecting our natural environment, even though most of us believe that is their job.
    The commissioners of the DNR, MPCA, Department of Agriculture, etc. are all appointed by the Governor. These agencies are inherently political.
    The DNR, including its Division of Lands and Minerals, is willing to turn all of northeast Minnesota into a copper-nickel mining industrial zone. Getting rid of the wolves is just part of the plan.
    Future generations will bear the brunt of our choices and decisions. Politics doesn’t think that far ahead–only as far as the next election. Big money talks.
    Polls have consistently shown that the majority of Minnesotans oppose a wolf hunt. Yet special interests get to call the shots.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 02/01/2017 - 07:19 am.


      There’s NOT legions of researchers doing good science without the headlines you see driven by articles like this one. PLEASE. Without the DNR there would be NO protection for anything other than wolves, deer, or moose. Most activists don’t bother to concern themselves with the “little things”, and as such they get lost. You’re entitled to your opinion, and no agency is perfect, but to decide that ALL the DNR does os evil disrespects the hundreds, if not thousands of hard working staff that do GOOD works and have nothing to do with your concerns.

  4. Submitted by Dr Rin Porter on 01/31/2017 - 04:07 pm.

    Thanks to Collette

    Thank you, Collette, for your post. I think we have to hold Sen.Klobuchar to account for all her anti-wolf votes. I have written to her numerous times, and I always get a form letter back that tells me how important agriculture is to northern Minnesota.

    We need wolves to keep our ecosystem healthy. Lots of research in Yellowstone has shown the influence of wolves on biodiversity that includes plants as well as animals that hunters want to shoot, like elk and moose. Wolves are the apex predator, and they keep the ecosystem in balance. It is humans who throw it out of balance.

  5. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/01/2017 - 06:41 am.

    If there were s Little Red Riding Hood award

    Klobuchar earned it on this one,,,red cape and all…good article, yes.

  6. Submitted by Greg Price on 02/01/2017 - 07:31 am.

    NIMBY….who is calling the shots?

    quick comment….appears to me that some of our posters could benefit from taking a trip up north and actually talking to the locals who live with…support and whose areas feed and shelter the large population of wolves in MN.

    quick fact: If a population qualifies for delisting under ESA…it is obviously increasing. USFS has rated wolf populations at the highest since the turn of the century (19th). Talk to any DNR official…the northern deer herd is at low ebb due to wolf predation.

    If you had these animals in your backyard posing a threat to your livestock and/or pets…you would probably sing a different tune. It is easy to sing the treehugger song in the concrete jungles of the twin cities. The wolf’s little brother the coyote is increasing in the twin city metro…..when they start taking more pet housecats and small dogs from back yards…perhaps that will get some attention.

    I have lived in Northern MN, Wyoming and Montana and have probably had more actual contact with wolves than most of the posters here.

    Google the Duluth paper for how many dogs being walked get taken by wolves up north…it is more than you think….

    When you have eastern courts in Connecticut ruling on wolves in MN…that is inherently wrong…

    The DNR is composed of professional wildlife biologists who can manage the state game populations….I doubt that they need advice from carpetbaggers in other states…

    Source problem here is the same problem that is inherent in MN….you can’t fight Twin City Hall…

    I wish you all well and appreciate the opportunity to restate my opinion.

    Greg Price

  7. Submitted by Laure Rudolph on 02/01/2017 - 08:10 am.

    Wolf protection

    As stated in a prior comment, its important to keep the balance of nature. We are slowly destorying this balance with greed and making decisions only to benefit the officials who want re-election, and people who dont understand the full capacity of hunting these wolves to no end to totally wipe them out. Let the Endangered Species Act do their job! They are ones that are close to home on how to manage wildlife in all capacities.

    If we continue down this path of destruction of wanting to eliminate certain wildlife, my grand kids will only be able to look at these beautiful creatures in a picture book.

    These types of hasty decisions are taking away the true meaning of being a hunter, and passing along the traditions and true teachings of being a hunter to family member and children. This disgusts me in every way. Gods creatures were put here on earth for a purpose in the balance of nature. People are now destroying the beautiful gifts given to us…so very sad.

  8. Submitted by joe smith on 02/01/2017 - 01:40 pm.

    I live up here on the Range and the idea wolves

    are in trouble due to low numbers is not true. Thank goodness mange hit the packs up here hard and the numbers are under control. Mange is Mother Natures way of thinning the pack. Most folks I know up here have had dogs taken by wolves or at the very least had wolves chasing their dogs right up to the porch. 40 years ago you may have heard a wolf howl once or twice a fall to winter season, now I hear them 2-3 times a week. If you de-list the wolf you can again have a draw for tags during deer season followed by un filled wolf tags going to professional trappers. If not mange will kill these beautiful creatures in the cruelest way I can imagine, no hair in a Northern Minnesota winter.

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