On January 20, 2015, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved S. 659, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, which complements the bill reported by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee late last year. However, the Environment and Public Works Committee’s approval adds a number of controversial amendments to the Act’s overarching purpose of increasing recreational hunting, fishing, shooting, conservation, and other access on public lands. An amendment offered by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and approved by voice vote, would delist the gray wolf in Wyoming and the Great Lakes region in recognition of those four states’ plans that are in place to protect the wolves without federal regulation under the Endangered Species Act.
The gray wolf in Wyoming and the Great Lakes region has been the subject of both regulatory and political efforts to delist the species in recent years. Following the federal courts’ 2014 overturning of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s delisting of the wolves, a rider in the 2015 House Interior appropriations bill would have reversed the court and removed ESA protections for wolves in Michingan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Wyoming. As discussed in a prior blog post, numerous gray wolf delisting bills were introduced in the House in 2015. S. 659 will now proceed to the full Senate.