The 2010 US census stated that 80% of all Americans live in an urban areas which was up one percentage point from 2000. The urbanization of American life has lead to a detachment between man and nature which directly affects the laws that are passed in how our country handles wildlife and nature. Most Americans get their understanding and love of nature from a trip that they took to a national park or from how specific animals are portrayed in the media which has led to problems with how certain species are handled on a federal level. One source of continual problems with how the US as a country handles it’s species is through the modern interpretation of the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) that was signed into law by one of our most environmentally conscious presidents, Richard Nixon, who was also responsible for the Clean Air and Clean Water Act which is arguably the most important law for the environment in US history. The problem with the ESA is that it puts specific animal populations under federal control that would be better serviced on the state level by fish and game agencies. Two of the species that are causing the biggest problems that arise from the ESA are the grey wolf and the grizzly bear, two predators that often times cause more damage to society than they benefit society. Grizzlies and wolves are the culprit behind loss of agriculture and property damage in the communities that they reside in. The ESA subjects a fine up to 100,000 dollars and up to one year in jail to anyone that harms an endangered species even when they propose a threat to ones property. The ESA has been unchanged since 1973 before both Grizzlies and wolves were endangered or threatened species and congress has not been proactive in modifying the law to better govern how best to deal with these predatory species that are on the list. In 2007 the Grizzly Bear was delisted from the endangered species list but is still listed as threatened and action cannot be taken against the animal if being a nuisance on privately held land. If property is damaged by any animal governed by the ESA the federal government is not responsible for the damages and the land owner has to cover the costs of the damaged property on his own dime. This is detrimental especially when agriculture like chickens or cows are eaten by these predatory species on the list. In the state of Wyoming, the department of natural resources realizes that the federal government should be held responsible for any damaged property by animals on this list but doesn’t, so the state is forced to foot the bill as a courtesy to the landowner. What needs to be done instead of continually using this outdated law is to have each state govern their wildlife population, at least be able to govern predatory and nuisance animals on this list. What is being done by the federal government is that they are allowing the romanticization of these animals to set the agenda on how to best manage them instead of using common sense laws that benefit the less than 20% of American people that don’t live in cities and deal with these everyday. While I don’t believe that these animals should be eradicated completely, there needs to be better laws in which property owners don’t have to be subjugated to these laws which put their livelihood into jeopardy.
For more information on this subject check out the National Center for Policy Analysis’ journal on the subject (http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/st303.pdf) and check out Steven Rinella’s podcast with Wyoming legislators (http://www.themeateater.com/podcasts/episode-047-laramie-wyoming/)