Last week, a bill introduced by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) received a hearing.
For some congresspeople, this would not be news. For Boebert it is: In her first term, she sponsored 41 pieces of legislation—one set out to impeach President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris; another to require the Department of Homeland Security to treat fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction; a third to prohibit the use of federal funds to research youth gender transitions—and none warranted a hearing.
This turned out to be a problem. Despite being predicted to comfortably win reelection, Boebert prevailed over her Democratic opponent by less than a percentage point. Voters in her district told me the reason was simple: “I don’t think she did shit,” one constituent explained. “She didn’t back one bill, she just talked a lot.”
Now, it seems Boebert has taken that message to heart. In proposing to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act, she has taken aim at a serious, complex issue in her home state.
In 2020, Coloradans narrowly voted to allow the reintroduction of gray wolves, which had been hunted out of their natural range in the 1940s. Environmentalists say that wolves are an important part of ecosystems, allowing aspens and willows to thrive by mediating the elk population that feeds on them. Because wolves are protected by the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to kill them—except in the Northern Rocky Mountains, which encompasses Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, because those states have already successfully restored their gray wolf populations. (Endangered species can be killed in self-defense.) Wolves have not yet been officially reintroduced by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Still, some packs have migrated into the state from Wyoming. These wolves occasionally kill cattle, frustrating ranchers, who view the reintroduction of wolves as harmful and say that the state’s city-dwellers don’t know what it’s like to have their livelihood threatened by carnivorous animals. By removing wolves from the ESA, Boebert wants to allow Colorado ranchers to shoot wolves.
This seems exactly the type of issue that Boebert, a congresswoman from a rural district, would be sent to Congress to solve. But what might look like Boebert listening to her constituents and doing something to help them could backfire: Her arguments have been so error-ridden and nonsensical that they could hurt her cause.
First, the name. Boebert titled her bill the Trust the Science Act, “the science” being that the wolf population has recovered. This is only half true. In a press release announcing the bill, the words “scientific fact” link to a letter from wildlife management professionals saying that the wolf population has recovered—in the western Great Lakes states. This is hardly evidence that the gray wolf is, in Boebert’s words, “fully recovered.”
Ever the shitposter, Boebert began her hearing by holding up photos of aborted fetuses, the kind that adorn anti-choice billboards by the side of the highway. “Since we’re talking about the Endangered Species Act, I’m just wondering if my colleagues on the other side would put babies on the endangered species list,” she said. “These babies were born in Washington, D.C., full-term. I don’t know, maybe that’s a way we can save some children here in the United States.” As many people have pointed out, the human population is well-established across six continents.
Lauren Boebert brought photos of human fetuses to a hearing on endangered species. pic.twitter.com/IpXCI14cWT
— David Edwards (@DavidEdwards) March 23, 2023
It begs the question: Why is Boebert seemingly trolling her own bill?
There is plenty to debate here. There are ways to regulate the wolf population without giving hunters carte blanche to kill them. One controversial proposed federal rule would keep wolves on the endangered species list but allow ranchers to shoot wolves on-sight if they are regularly killing their cattle. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is supposed to reimburse ranchers for livestock killed by wolves, but some ranchers have complained that they haven’t received the money. Ensuring prompt payments could be one solution. Hazing wolves with fladry—a flag-lined fence that flaps loudly in the breeze—is a short-term fix.
Then there is a potential to do nothing. Wolves account for a small percentage of livestock deaths. Ranchers, under this argument, would just have to learn to live with them, as they’ve done with other predators like mountain lions and coyotes.
All of that seems worth talking about in the halls of Congress. It could even help pass legislation. Or, as Boebert’s constituent put it, it could be considered doing shit.