Congressman Bentz Leads Field Hearing on Delisting Gray Wolves

By Oregon Congressman Cliff Bentz,

On Friday, May 3, 2024, Chairman Cliff Bentz (OR-02) led a Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries oversight field hearing titled, “How Many Wolves Are Enough? Examining the Need to Delist the Grey Wolf.”

Chairman Cliff Bentz’s opening statement (as written):

“I want to thank the witnesses for being here today and our members for their interest in the issues we’ll be discussing.

Today, the Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries Subcommittee will examine the current and future management of the gray wolf. A species that is of great concern to me and my constituents back in Oregon and as can be seen by the attendance at today’s hearing, many of you.

Today’s hearing is coming on the heels of a great success on the House floor back in Washington. On Tuesday evening, the House of Representatives passed in a bi-partisan fashion H.R. 764, a bill entitled the “Trust the Science Act,” which would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue the 2020 Trump Administration rule that delisted the gray wolf in the lower 48 states.

What was discussed during floor debate and what will be central to today’s discussion is when should we declare the gray wolf an ESA recovery success story and who should be in charge of managing populations going forward. My unequivocal answer to those questions is that the number of wolves we have on the landscape today is more than enough to consider the species recovered and that states are best equipped to manage gray wolf populations going forward.

Take my home state of Oregon, where we have the peculiar situation in my district where a highway determines whether wolves are listed under the ESA or not. West of the highway, they are listed, east of the highway, they are not. We currently have roughly 250 wolves in Oregon, which the state seems to believe is enough and does not want the population to grow any further. This stands in stark contrast to where we sit today here in Minnesota, where there are at least 10 times as many wolves on the landscape. In the neighboring states of Wisconsin and Michigan, there are roughly an additional 1,700 wolves combined. According to testimony heard by this subcommittee last year during the consideration of H.R. 764, federal recovery goals in this region have been met since at least 1994, yet the gray wolf is still listed.

Why is this such an important issue to us here today and why does the gray wolf’s perpetual listing under the ESA matter? The answer is simple, the ESA was not intended for species to be listed permanently, as some would like to believe, and the consequences of an unmanaged wolf population have dire impacts on our constituents. As we will hear from witnesses today, unmanaged wolf populations have a devastating impact on farmers and ranchers, other wildlife species, and the communities that depend upon them. The fact is that wolves are apex predators who rely on killing other animals to survive, whether they are a farmer’s cattle or wild moose living out in the forests of Minnesota. The management of wolf populations is the only logical path forward that can strike a balance between maintaining a healthy population and protecting the way of life of so many of our constituents. The good news is that states have already proven to be capable wildlife managers. This was confirmed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service two months ago when they denied petitions to list gray wolves in the Western United States and relist them in the Northern Rockies Ecosystem, an area where wolves have been delisted for over a decade. The Service stated that wolves are “not at risk of extinction in the Western United States now or in the foreseeable future.” The Service also stated that wolves in the Western United States had a healthy abundance, retained genetic diversity, have the ability to respond to high-mortality events, and maintain adaptive capacity.

Instead of sitting on our hands and allowing the issues associated with an unmanaged wolf population to grow, we as members of Congress must continue to act to ensure the voices of our constituents are heard and that we do everything we can to delist the gray wolf. The action on the House floor this week was one step in the right direction, and I believe this hearing today will continue that path forward.

This hearing provided a platform for experts and those impacted to testify on the gray wolf population surge’s multifaceted implications, including its economic, ecological, and societal ramifications. Ranchers, farmers, and outdoorsmen alike are fed up with the way the federal government has handled the gray wolf population surge and are ready to change!”

Highlighted Q & A from Chairman Bentz:

“Is a wolf the same [when it comes to killing animals] as your household pet?”

Mr. John Williams, Representing the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association:

“Absolutely not. Wolves are somewhere around 100 pounds. They do not kill animals and then eat them. They just start eating them. And they keep eating them until they get to something vital and then the animal dies. It’s one of the most horrific deaths you can have. They also pack hunt, or they individually hunt, so if an individual gets beaten by a cow, he’ll bring a friend back, and they’ll win eventually. They also traumatize those animals that they leave alive. I can go on, but in no way a 110-pound wolf that is a born killer is anything close to a pet.”

Background courtesy of the House Natural Resources Committee GOP:

The Great Lakes region has the largest concentration of gray wolves in the lower 48 states, with approximately 4,200 wolves that inhabit the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Under the current management framework, wolves in Minnesota are listed as threatened, whereas wolves in Michigan and Wisconsin are listed as endangered. The recovery plan for the gray wolf in the Great Lakes is clear when it comes to criteria for delisting, a stable or increasing population of wolves in Minnesota and at least 200 wolves outside of the Minnesota population.

The Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations have all agreed that the gray wolf species is recovered and should be delisted, but extreme environmental groups and activist judges have stopped the delisting attempts by multiple administrations. The gray wolf should be celebrated as an Endangered Species Act success story. Recent scientific analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that the gray wolf population is healthy and can sustain itself. The case for delisting is clear, and on April 30, 2024, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 764, the Trust the Science Act, which would remove the recovered gray wolf from the endangered species list.

Last week’s hearing in Sandstone, Minn. was a chance for members to hear from local elected officials and wildlife experts to learn more about the gray wolf population and its impact on rural communities.

Watch the complete hearing:

Bentz’s Opening remarks:’s Questioning:

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