Today the very mainstream Arizona Republic editorial board took Senator Tester and Congressman Rehberg to task for "trying to look more appealing to anti-wolf factions" in Montana. The entire editorial is below. It's well worth a read to see how other parts of the country view Montana politics, and also to see how either Rehberg's Idaho and Montana Wolf Management Act of 2011 or Tester and Baucus' Delisting Gray Wolves to Restore State Management Act of 2011 would negatively impact endangered species recovery in other parts of the country, and for far more than just wolves.
In response to the introduction of Rehberg's bill, Defenders of Wildlife - a very respected, mainstream voice for wildlife and habitat conservation - issued this press release "Rehberg sets the stage for nationwide wolf eradication".
Meanwhile, when the Tester/Baucus bill was introduced last fall, Defenders had this to say, "Senate bill would short-circuit Endangered Species Act protection for wolves: New legislation could set back wolf recovery, undermine federal protections for wildlife."
Montana pols could imperil wolves
Arizona Republic - Editorial, Feb. 14, 2011
Montana's 2012 Senate race could doom wolves in Arizona. It's politics. And it stinks.
The long-fought effort to restore endangered Mexican gray wolves to the wilds of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico is threatened by posturing between two politicians. Montana's Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, who intends to run for Senate, are each trying to look more appealing to anti-wolf factions in that state. Wolves are pawns.
Let's be clear: The situation for the Mexican gray wolves is very different from that of wolves in the northern Rockies. Wolves in the northern Rockies are in far better shape than the 50 Mexican gray wolves who stand between the species' survival and its elimination in the wilds of the Southwest. These wolves need more protection, not less.
Wolves in the northern Rockies are much more plentiful, yet efforts to remove them from the endangered-species list were overturned by court decision last August. Since then, Tester has been trying to satisfy the concerns of those who are not happy about the increasing numbers of wolves in Montana and its neighboring states.
Legitimate concerns about wolves need to be addressed. But Tester's efforts late last year included a move to simply exclude those wolves from the Endangered Species Act - not through a bill that could have been debated, but as part of a larger omnibus bill.
Rehberg is upping the ante. As a newly announced candidate for Tester's Senate seat, Rehberg says the federal government should have no say in state wildlife issues. This is nonsense.
The Endangered Species Act is a recognition of the value of species diversity as part of every American's national heritage. States don't trump that national interest. Yet Rehberg wants Congress to exclude all wolves - including those in Arizona and New Mexico - from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups say this effort could also be tacked onto a larger bill without debate.
Both these efforts circumvent the role of Congress as a place to openly debate matters that affect the nation. They also run around a careful process for species delisting that is built into the existing law of the land.
This approach could create a precedent of excluding animals based on politics instead of biology. It would neuter the Endangered Species Act, which is recognized as one of the world's premier environmental laws. Rehberg's scheme would doom the Mexican gray wolves.
Democrats - including the Obama administration - have been allowing Tester to build his states' rights bona fides as he seeks re-election. The president and Democrats in Congress should show some spine and serve a higher interest than Tester's political future.
The American people benefit from a healthy Endangered Species Act and a healthy population of wolves - including Mexican gray wolves.