Archive for May 5th, 2011

By JC

The blowback from Senator Jon Tester’s Wolf Rider has begun in earnest. Three environmental groups filed lawsuit in federal district court today challenging the constitutionality of his wolf rider.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, and WildEarth Guardians charge in their complaint that the delisting rider violates the U.S. Constitution, as it specifically repeals a judicial decision. While Congress has the right to make and amend laws, the wolf delisting rider (Section 1713 of the budget law, HR 1473, PL 112-10) does not amend the Endangered Species Act. Rather, it orders the reinstatement of the 2009 wolf delisting rule.

“The rider goes against a bedrock principle of our democracy: checks and balances between branches of government,” stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. “Legislators can’t pick off specific court decisions they don’t like. That’s not fair for the wolf, and it’s certainly not good for our democracy.”

This debate over the wolf rider is no longer about the issue of wolf reintroduction or science or politics. It is about the role of the three branches of the federal government–checks and balances–and the right of the public to participate in that process, no matter how out of the mainstream those actions may be portrayed in an attempt to intimidate dissenters.

Jon Tester’s wolf rider was merely an attempt by him and his most ardent and vocal supporters to repress dissent among those who would use the processes guaranteed to them by the Constitution and codified in important federal legislation like NEPA and the Endangered Species Act to act on behalf of their constituencies, the mission of the nonprofits they work for, and the principles they advance.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in an April 18, 2011 letter to President Obama weighed in on the issue:

“I write to express serious concern over the inclusion of policy language unrelated to the budget. Specifically, using policy “riders” within the budget to de-list gray wolves in the Northern Rockies region from the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)… sets a highly undesirable precedent for making decisions on important social and natural resource issues that deserve open and informed debate.

A six-month budget resolution negotiated through backroom discussions is clearly the wrong vehicle to make permanent changes to significant public policy. For nearly 40 years, the Endangered Species Act has assured decisions about our nation’s natural heritage are driven by science, fish and wildlife professionals, and public input. Removing protection for an endangered species by congressional mandate, much less through a budget bill, stands in unprecedented contrast to this history. This action erodes the integrity of the ESA, excludes important public involvement, and usurps the agency structure, established based on a balancing of executive and legislative branch power, that exists to undertake important decisions affecting America’s wildlife.”

Of course, Senator Tester developed his political chops in the Montana State Legislature, a hotbed of extra-constitutional legislating (which has been abundantly documented here at 4&20). One would have hoped that the futility of unconstitutional legislating would have been left behind in Montana when the Senator went to Washington, but that doesn’t appear to have been the case.

This issue will continue to be attacked by those who merely see this as a battle over wolf numbers, or when/how they were delisted (legally or not). But Senator Tester’s having elevated this to a constitutional battle raises the issue to one of majority tyranny: the repression of dissent, as expressed in the right of a vocal and active minority who are willing to challenge the status quo and the forces that maintain them. Those who have been fighting for the wolf have been doing so in a time-honored fashion, and doing it the old fashioned way: through legal public process, which to the chagrin of the majority, includes the judiciary.

Senator Tester’s action to legislate a judicial decision raises a far greater question than one of how to properly delist a species from the Endangered Species Act. And that question is: how far is Congress and mainstream America willing to go to repress the democratic bedrock upon which citizens are allowed to redress their grievances?

“We’re back in court for two reasons,” concluded Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “First and foremost, it’s to continue to protect wolves from indiscriminate slaughter. Second, someone has to stand up when the basic tenets of our government are under attack by unscrupulous politicians.”

Let the armchair lawyering begin…

————-
Update: As Matthew Koehler noted in the comments, The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit in federal court today, also:

Today’s lawsuit is based on Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the principle of “separation of powers.” This principle dictates that the judicial power of the United States lies in the federal courts and not in Congress. In this case, Congress violated the principle by inserting itself into an ongoing legal case brought by conservation groups over the fate of wolves in the northern Rockies.

Advertisements

by jhwygirl

Montana Republicans snuck a 2.75% tax on 23,000 small businesses’ worker’s comp premiums in the waning days of the session – which Governor Schweitzer has vetoed – and they’re whining about him breaking the budget deal?

Taxing small business? Shame on you MT GOP!

The theater never ends, even if the doors close.




  • Pages

  • Recent Comments

    Miles on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
    success rate for In… on Thirty years ago ARCO killed A…
    Warrior for the Lord on The Dark Side of Colorado
    Linda Kelley-Miller on The Dark Side of Colorado
    Dan on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
    Former Prosecutor Se… on Former Chief Deputy County Att…
    JediPeaceFrog on Montana AG Tim Fox and US Rep.…
  • Recent Posts

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,670,840 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,737 other followers

  • May 2011
    S M T W T F S
    « Apr   Jun »
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  
  • Categories