Rep. Lauren Boebert’s bill to delist gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act gets its first hearing

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert at the 2022 Colorado Republican State Assembly on April 9, 2022 at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs.

GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert’s bill to delist the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act faced its first subcommittee hearing Thursday.

But before she talked about her bill, Boebert started with an aside, showing photos of human babies she said were born in Washington, D.C., with what looked like birth defects. Boebert, a staunch anti-abortion supporter, then asked if her Democratic colleagues would want to put babies on the Endangered Species Act. 

After that, Boebert turned to the gray wolf, saying it’s, “an Endangered Species Act success story, and it shouldn’t languish,” on the ESA any longer. 

The wolf has been on and off the endangered species list various times in recent years as litigation has worked its way through the courts. 

“Gray Wolves are fully recovered and should remain delisted in the lower 48 and should be managed by states who have proven more than capable at managing these thriving populations,” the conservative Western Slope representative said. “On the right, we want to be good stewards of our land and the wildlife and our waters. We want to be a part of that managing process with wildlife, not have wildlife manage itself.”

Her bill, titled Trust the Science Act, would reinstate a 2020 rule that delists the gray wolf and would prevent judicial review. According to Boebert’s office, the Administrative Procedures Act would limit courts from reviewing an agency’s action if the statute precludes judicial review. Since the Obama administration, the status of the gray wolf has been in flux, with efforts to delist challenged in the courts.

In November 2018, the Republican-controlled House passed a bill to delist the gray wolf, but it did not advance in the Senate.

She pointed to a number of groups that support her legislation, from the Colorado Cattlemen's Association to Safari Club international.

But U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the agency that lists and delists animal species, testified against the bill.

Stephen Guertin, deputy director for program management and policy at U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said Boebert’s bill and others to delist species, “would put congress in control of delisting species without the benefit of using the best available scientific and commercial information and without considering current conditions. They’d supersede ongoing scientific analysis being conducted by the service regarding the status of wolf and grizzly populations right now.”

Boebert said she was surprised the FWS is opposing her bill, “when career officials at your very agency wrote the same 2020 rules.”

Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Subcommittee chair Cliff Bentz said the ESA is 50 years old and could be improved by these bills.

“Any law can be improved, and that’s what we’re about. This is the first hearing that we will hold on the EAS, but certainly not the last.”

But Ranking Member Jared Huffman criticized the bill saying, “These bills ignore science, rather than trust it. They bypass science.”

Huffman pointed out that Colorado voters supported reintroducing the gray wolf in the state. 

“The gray wolves are more popular than some of the politicians that want to delist them,” he said. 

As the bill winds its way through Congress, Colorado Senators have written the heads of the Interior Department as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service to grant Colorado a 10(j) exemption to give the state, farmers and ranchers management flexibility, such as lethally removing or relocating the reintroduced wolves.

Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota, a sponsor of the Boebert bill, pushed Guertin to say the Biden Administration will follow the science on listing or delisting the gray wolf.

Boebert used her time to show photos of livestock and dogs in Colorado attacked by wolves. 

“While people of the Denver suburbs and the fake news believe all wolf attacks turn out like fairy tales,” she said. “The reality is much different.”

She mentioned an anecdotal story of a 9-year-old boy attacked by wolves while swimming in 2002. CPR News instead found news reports of a 2022 wolf attack that took place in Russia.

Huffman noted that of 26 fatal wolf attacks from 2002 to 2020, only one took place in the United States.