Endangered Wolves Decision Symbolizes Green Costs of Democrats' Western Support

Watching the Obama administration navigate interest groups out West.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

One of the joys of watching Barack Obama's administration (if you don't have too much skin in the game) is seeing how it navigates among the various interest groups it courted, and promises it made, during the fall campaign. Now that he is in office, choices must be made.

In Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's decision to stick with a controversial Bush administration policy, and take wolves off the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho and other Rocky Mountain states, some of Audacity's supporters won, and others lost.

The overarching theme of this particular tale is the Democratic Party's avowed intent and considerable efforts to be competitive in the West. It earned the Democrats a passel of Electoral College votes last fall, cheering liberals across the land. But it comes with some costs, as environmentalists discovered with the wolf decision.

Though pretty green by regional standards, Western Democrats like Salazar are not extremists. They know how to weigh the competing interests of energy firms, ski resorts, environmental groups, animal lovers, ranchers and the outdoors industry. You can't cheer, as a lefty blogger, when Democrats are competitive in the northern Rockies, without acknowledging there will be trade-offs in environmental policy.

And so the enviro groups and wildlife folks got stiffed by Salazar's decision to stick with the recommendations of the Interior Department scientists, and consign the fate of the (choose one: a) cute, b) livestock killing) wolves to state officials.

There's the other rub. You can't cheer, as a liberal, when Audacity announces that he's going to rid science of federal political and religious meddling without admitting that there will be times—as with the grey wolves—when the scientists come back with a verdict you won't like. Science is science, whether it's stem cells, or wolves.    

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