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For want of something precious was lost

In a War-Songs poem in 1917, Carl Sandburg used a gray wolf analogy to predict an “Out” and “Good-night” to weak, old, degenerate royalty — to “the kings, the czars, the kaisers.”
Like the “gray wolves [in our] far timbers tearing the throats of moose,” he saw dysfunctional emperorships being swept away by the upheavals of the (first) World War.
“For Want of a Wolf, the Lynx was Lost!” was the title of a brief note in the journal Science on Sept. 9.
The near elimination of the gray wolf across the U.S. during the 20th century had wrought an “ecological cascade” that dramatically changed ecosystems and their wildlife.
Without wolves, coyotes soared and herbivores such as elk and deer. The former hunted to rarity the lynx’s primary prey and sustenance, the snowshoe hare; elk and deer consumed the shrubby cover which was the hare’s food and predator protection. Its meager remaining numbers, in result, made the lynx endangered too.
Last seen in the western U.S. in 1930, the gray wolf survived in small numbers in the deep northern woods of Minnesota and Michigan. Protected after institution of the Endangered Species law, it was reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995.
Since then, the Science piece states, wolves have sharply curtailed the coyote population, altered the behavior of both coyotes and herbivores, upped the number of snowshow hares, and helped restore overall ecosystem health.
In a Sept. 30 article in the same journal (Science), biology and forestry researchers relate an action by the Congress that could again imperil not only the wolf but other species the ESA has helped to preserve.
“Side-stepping the provisions of the law,” the authors note, Congress passed a legislative rider to the Continuing Budget Resolution in April that ordered the wolf delisted, and, further, “explicitly exempts [the removal of wolf protection] from judicial review.” Management authority for it now reverts to the states.
Never before has an animal or plant been removed from the endangered species list by Congress.
Equally unprecedented, the authors note, are the manner of forcing such removal as part of an unrelated bill and the abrogation of citizens’ right to challenge the action through the federal courts.
Indeed, in that it violates the separation of powers in the U.S. constitution, it may be unlawful.
The researchers point to possible help for the gray wolf, and other at-risk species, from an older, wildlife-trust doctrine dating back to Roman and English common law.
It holds that wildlife, having no owners, belongs “in common to all of the citizens.”
The state has a sovereign trust obligation to manage wildlife so as to secure its beneficial use in the future to all the people.
The need for imposition of ESA protection for many species was an indication that the states failed in this duty in the past.
The new situation the gray wolf now faces will require great diligence, from states and citizens, to ensure that the progress it had lately made won’t again be undone.