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Waco Tribune-Herald, August 9, 2010

Edwards files bill to remove gray wolf from endangered species list, allowing hunting
By Michael W. Shapiro

In the last day before Congress left for August recess, U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, filed legislation that would remove the gray wolf from federal threatened and endangered species lists in the United States.

Protection of gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act has for years been a hot-button issue, pitting farmers, ranchers and hunters against environmentalists.

The agricultural and hunting groups argue wolf populations have rebounded from their low numbers in the 1970s, when the animal was close to extinction.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have sought rules changes delisting wolves and allowing for state management and hunting seasons for the animals in parts of the country.

Environmental groups strongly disagree on scientific grounds and have challenged both administrations in court.

“I am a hunter, and several fellow hunters have approached me about the gray wolf devastating livestock and elk in parts of the United States where many Texans hunt,” Edwards said in a statement.

“The gray wolf population is once again healthy and abundant in many parts of the country, and we have an obligation to support our farmers and ranchers and help them to protect livestock from the threat of growing populations of the gray wolf.”

Environmental groups, including Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity, have argued that the wolves are still in a precarious situation and said Edwards’ bill would put the species in peril.

The National Farm Bureau, concerned with the safety of livestock, has long supported efforts to take gray wolves off protected lists.

Texas Farm Bureau legislative director Steve Pringle said his organization didn’t ask Edwards to file the bill but that “we will support it.”

Guessing at Edwards’ motivation for sponsoring the legislation, Pringle noted that on the day before Edwards filed his bill, a U.S. District Judge in Missoula, Mont., ruled against a partial delisting by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service of wolves in certain parts of the country.

The delisting would have allowed for hunting seasons in Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and northern Utah.

That decision was protested by both farming and hunting groups.

Bill Snape, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, said he didn’t think Edwards’ bill was likely to pass for a number of reasons, including the lateness in the congressional session and the fact that similar bills have failed in the past.

“This is clearly a chest-beating exercise, which is his right,” Snape said. “It’s called red-meat, macho politics.”

Storing Web user data

Edwards also sponsored on the same day a bill requiring Internet service providers, or ISPs, as well as online service providers, such as Yahoo! and YouTube, to store data connected to the identity of users for at least two years.

Law enforcement authorities frequently use such data after obtaining subpoenas or search warrants while investigating sexual predators preying on children but sometimes are hampered by short data retention requirements, Edwards said in a news release.

“Although we have made strides to protect our children from predators, there is still an absence of any uniform, industrywide, minimum practice to retain this data, so Internet child predators can effectively hide behind temporary IP addresses that are too quickly discarded by companies,” Edwards said in the release.

He also said costs of data storage have dropped.

Edwards said he co-wrote the legislation with Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., who is listed as a co-sponsor. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas, and Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, also are co-sponsors.

© 2010 Wacotrib.com

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton