Biden reneges on wildlife and environment protection promises

MONTANA—Given the attacks by the Trump Administration on wildlife and the environment, environmentalists were understandably enthusiastic about the incoming Biden Administration, assuming that many of Trump’s threatening policy changes would be rolled back. Two recent decisions by the Biden Administration on gray wolf protection and fracking restrictions has seriously dampened that enthusiasm.

The Trump Administration removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list in 2020—and without consulting any tribes, despite the wolf playing a major cultural and spiritual role in many tribal histories. Joe Biden vowed to review that decision, but according to Ecowatch, has since had Administration lawyers request a federal California judge reject a lawsuit brought by environmental groups seeking to restore protections of the gray wolf. Biden’s Fish and Wildlife is defending Trump’s policy on the gray wolf where and when it becomes necessary.

Former Congress of American Indians CEO Kevin Allis wrote in Roll Call: “…Biden’s decision to not consult with tribal nations on the listing process for wolves not only perpetuates a wrong inflicted on Native Americans by the Trump administration but is in total contradiction to his executive action [reaffirming tribal consultation directives by both Clinton and Obama]. It demonstrated that his administration will not take concrete action to honor this country’s treaty and trust responsibilities.”

Reintroduction of the gray wolf to a Yellowstone valley decades back startled environmentalists on how deep a keystone species impact the wolf pack had on the valley. Not only was the historic health of the valley restored, wolf activity returned the watershed back to its original courses. When wolf protection was enacted back in 1968, gray wolf populations were down to about a 1,000, in one area of the upper Midwest. Not even environmentalists completely understood then the profound positive impact wolf populations have on environmental health.

“Wolves are sacred creatures to the American Indian,” Allis wrote in Roll Call, “and have a prominent status in just about every Native American tribe. In most Native cultures, the wolf is associated with characteristics such as courage, strength and loyalty. For many North American tribes, wolves, like bears, are considered closely related to humans. For some Northwestern tribes, wolves are an important piece of their origin stories. The wolf delisting, which could lead to the slaughter of the species, has imposed on our religious beliefs. President Joe Biden’s decision demonstrates that he will not respect the sovereignty and culture of tribal nations as promised.”

“It’s shocking that Biden officials are backing Trump’s ruthless decision to strip protections from wolves,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This move means more of our nation’s wolves will be slaughtered in states where politics have trumped science. Biden can’t say his administration supports science-based decisions and then let Wisconsin, Montana and Idaho turn into a bloodbath for wolves.”

Because Earthjustice filed a lawsuit, the Fish and Wildlife Service responded by filing a brief in the Northern District of California U.S. District Court detailing their opposition to restoring gray wolf protections, leaving no doubt the Biden Administration’s position on wolf protection is identical to the Trump Administration’s position.

Kristen Boyles, attorney at Earthjustice said, “The Biden administration has betrayed its duty to protect and recover wolves. The Fish and Wildlife Service has the power to stop the immoral killing of wolves right now, and its refusal to act violates the law and the best science, as well as its treaty obligations to tribal nations.”

According to Wild Earth Guardians, President Biden has also broken his promise to not sell more public lands for fracking. Biden had promised to ban new oil and gas leases on federal public lands and waters, object being to alleviate the climate crisis. But now he has announced his intention to auction off more than 740,000 acres in eight states to oil and gas operations, which includes Wyoming, which could directly impact the air quality and watershed to South Dakota reservations.

 “These new plans to sell public lands for fracking are nothing but a shattered promise from the Biden administration…” said WildEarth Guardians Climate and Energy Program Director Jerry Nichols. “Rest assured; we will be doing everything within our power to block these plans. We simply can’t frack our way to a safe climate and can’t afford to keep selling public lands to the oil and gas industry. Clearly President Biden’s promises aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Given this, it’s clear that we need to continue fighting like hell for the climate even under a Biden administration.”

Challenged in court by Earthjustice, and with probable lawsuits pending from other high profile environmental protection groups, it remains to be seen if the Biden Administration will fulfill its promises to repair the damage done by the Trump Administration to wildlife and the environment by the lifting of wildlife protections and the expansion of fracking into previously protected public lands. The problem of not consulting with tribes about the gray wolf and fracking decisions, despite the promise made about tribal consultation in Biden’s recent Executive Order, will also be a future bone of contention between the Administration and tribal interest.

 

(Contact James Giago Davies at skindiesel@msn.com)

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