Open season on wolves

Many apologies for the long, dry spells around here! It’s a pretty nutty semester. Nutty enough that I barely registered the delisting of Gray Wolves from the Endangered Species List until a week after it happened. And during that first week, 10 wolves were shot in Wyoming alone – and the number had risen to 13 after 10 days. I wonder how many will be gone by Earth Day (Saturday)? How many “fierce, green fires” snuffed?

Oh, so many directions to direct a rant — toward a grotesquely oversubsidized western ranching industry that gets government assistance to extirpate top predators and wreak further havoc with our dwindling biodiversity, toward the the nearly-irrational hatreds and suspicions directed at individuals who wish to protect the nation’s wildlife, toward an Administration hell-bent on crippling the Endangered Species Act and every creature it protects (OK, that’s an easy choice)…

If you haven’t read Barry Lopez’s classic, Of Wolves and Men, treat yourself.

(Image to the right is St. Francis and the wolf of Gubbio.  Story here.)

On a peripheral note, the Bushies will be suspending 30 or more environmental laws in order to complete work on The Fence this year.  What does a Homeland Security Fence have to do with the environment?  More than you probably realize.

Just as Bush is unilaterally dismantling the Endangered Species Act (yep, that’s the same link as above – in case you skipped it!), he is trying to “disappear” the EPA (that link will probably change next month, so I’ll quote one passage at length):

Washington insiders say that the Bush White House has significantly altered the way the federal government approaches environmental protection by quietly changing the way EPA does its job. For one thing, critics charge, Bush is trying to starve the agency of cash. The White House’s proposed fiscal 2009 budget would provide just $7.1 billion — fewer actual dollars than EPA has received in any fiscal year since 1997. Bush’s plan, when adjusted for inflation, includes record-low funding levels for community drinking water facilities and for the Superfund hazardous-waste cleanup program. Lawmakers from both political parties say they’ll scrap the budget proposal and start from scratch.

Meanwhile, EPA lawyers and scientists say that on some key issues Johnson has directed agency staffers to come up with legal and scientific justifications for regulatory decisions that the White House has already made. That’s quite a turnabout from the agency’s traditional practice: EPA’s professional staff would craft a proposed regulation in response to a new law or to public health problems, and the White House and the Office of Management and Budget would then vet the agency’s draft rule.

And it’s not just regulations that the White House is said to be taking the lead on. In December, Johnson announced he would block California from developing its own program to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from cars and trucks. Agency documents gathered by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee show that EPA staffers overwhelming recommended that Johnson approve California’s request. Agency insiders say that the decision to deny the state a waiver originated in the White House and that Johnson subsequently ordered EPA lawyers and scientists to provide a rationale for the rejection. Congressional investigators are checking internal EPA documents to confirm that sequence of events.

Johnson “appears to have ignored the evidence before the agency and the requirements of the Clean Air Act,” says Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Johnson maintains that EPA scientists and lawyers gave him a wide range of options for responding to California’s request and that he made the final decision.

Current and former EPA officials also contend that the White House is telling agency staff members to focus on how much proposed regulations would cost industry, even when federal law specifically directs EPA to focus only on public health. “They’ve tried to achieve a paradigm shift in how EPA makes decisions,” said Carol Browner, who was EPA administrator during the Clinton administration and is now with the Albright Group. “They want to shift the agency away from the historical focus on public health and environmental protection and toward requiring cost-benefit analyses.”

That change, she said, could be hard for the next president to reverse. “The question is: How much have they loaded that into the under-workings of the agency, and how do you tease it back out to guarantee that the agency does its job?” said Browner, who advises Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

(Italics mine.)

Happy Earth Day.

(Update: added proper quotes to the Aldo Leopold “fierce, green dire” quote.)

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