By Chris Clarke
Political wonks have long talked about "blue dog" and "yellow dog" Democrats, but now California has a new Democratic dog political tendency: the Gray Wolf Democrat. A majority of California's Congressional House Democrats have signed on to a strongly worded letter urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to abandon attempts to strip the gray wolf of protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, written by Oregon Democrat Peter De Fazio, slams USFWS for its ongoing proposal to remove the gray wolf from ESA protection, charging that the proposed delisting is "not based on the best available science." DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, writes that USFWS "should rescind the proposed rule immediately," charging that the agency tried to stack the scientific deck against the wolves in its rulemaking.
And of the 73 Representatives that co-signed DeFazio's letter to Jewell, 19 were California Democrats. That's just over half the Democratic delegation and more than a third of the state's total representation in the House, and yet another sign that there's significant pro-wolf sentiment in California.
The California Representatives signing the DeFazio letter were Julia Brownley, Lois Capps, Tony Cárdenas, Judy Chu, Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr, Mike Honda, Jared Huffman, Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Jerry McNerney, George Miller, Grace Napolitano, Raul Ruiz, Adam Schiff, Jackie Speier, Mark Takano, and Henry Waxman.
With the exception of Huffman, Ruiz and McNerney, the California signers hail from relatively liberal coastal urban districts. Ruiz represents the Coachella Valley and Riverside County desert; McNerney took over arch-conservative Richard Pombo's district in San Joaquin County in 2007. Huffman represents the north coast's expansive Second District, which runs along the coast from the Golden Gate to the Oregon state line. (Alone among the letter's California signers, Huffman actually stands a chance of seeing wolves move into his district in the next decade or two.)
None of California's Republican Representatives signed on to the DeFazio letter.
In the letter, DeFazio pretty much rakes USFWS over the coals for its conduct during the wolf delisting proposal. "The ESA does not charge [USFWS\ with restoring only as much of the endangered species as it deems politically convenient," writes DeFazio, charging that he and his co-signers "have serious concerns regarding the initial attempts to exclude top wolf experts from this process, and the resurrection of a long-dormant government journal to 'publish' the study... used to justify the rule."
The letter charges that delisting would interfere with the gray wolf's recovery, saying that "recovery has yet to begin in California, Colorado, Utah, and the Northeast, where scientists have identified a significant amount of suitable habitat that would support wolf populations."
Neither Interior nor USFWS have responded publicly to the letter, but the presence of so many California Representatives on the roster of co-signers should provide a bit of moral support for the state's wolf advocates, not to mention political cover as the state's Fish and Game Commission determines whether to protect gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act.