Feds to delist wolves
By Cory Hatch
January 30, 2007
Federal officials announced a plan Monday to remove gray wolves in the Rocky Mountain region from Endangered Species Act protection.
In a telephone news conference, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said wolves also would be delisted in the Great Lakes region. The plan would delist more than 5,000 wolves in the lower 48 states, placing management of the animals under state control.
In Wyoming, however, the northwest corner of the state could be left out of the delisting process.
Unless Wyoming legislators can pass the necessary laws and draw up an appropriate management plan that would ensure the survival of packs outside Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, wolves in the state would remain under federal protection in at least the northwest corner of the state, Interior Department Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett said.
Elected officials in Wyoming are working on legislation that would guide a management plan for wolves. The Fish and Wildlife Service has already accepted plans from Montana and Idaho.
“If the state of Wyoming does not come forward with an approved management plan, then a significant portion of the range would remain protected under the Endangered Species Act,” Scarlett said. “Montana and Idaho would, of course, carry forward with their management plans.”
Fish and Wildlife wolf recovery coordinator Ed Bangs reinforced Scarlett’s statement, saying the service would take no actions to reduce the wolf population in northwest Wyoming beyond normal predator control. “We would continue to look at that population as we have been,” Bangs said.
Currently, officials and landowners have permission to protect livestock from wolf predation on private land and grazing allotments.
“There has to be some wolf packs in Wyoming outside the parks,” Bangs said. “If Wyoming comes on board, they’ll manage wolves in northwestern Wyoming. If they don’t come on board, we’ll manage wolves in northwestern Wyoming. But everything else will be delisted.”
Restoring wolves to the lower 48 states has been a contentious issue in the past, and some say the delisting proposal will likely result in lawsuits. Regardless of whether Wyoming is part of the delisting process, Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall said he is confident his agency will successfully put management of wolves under state control. “We think it’s a case that we can win either way,” he said.
Once the delisting is posted in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to comment on the plan. Hall said he hopes to finish the delisting process by the end of this year. Fish and Wildlife would continue monitoring wolf populations for five years after the delisting. If the wolf population drops beneath the recovery objectives, the federal government could put wolves back under Endangered Species Act protection.
Officials estimate that 1,243 wolves live in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The original recovery goals stipulated a minimum of 300 wolves and 30 breeding pairs for the region. Bangs said a Wyoming management plan would need to ensure a minimum of 15 wolf packs, seven of which would live outside the national parks. The seven packs would comprise between 50 and 70 wolves, he said.
The number of wolves in Wyoming rose from 252 to 314 during 2006. Authorities killed 44 wolves for depredation incidents and the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife spent more than $72,000 to compensate ranchers for 91 cattle, 31 sheep and a horse that wolves killed in Wyoming during 2006.
People can send comments on the proposal to NRMGrayWolf@fws.gov or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Delisting, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601. For information on northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves, visit www.fws.gov/.