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Wyoming and feds still growling over wolf management
The long-standing feud between the state of Wyoming and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) over wolf management and the process to remove gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list has taken another downturn, reports the Wildlife Management Institute.
On July 24, the Service denied Wyoming's plan to manage wolves in the state, following a yearlong review of the plan. As a result of that decision, it appears that Wyoming will sue the Service, as evidence by the fact that the state had already filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue before the Service announced its decision. Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal issued a statement saying the Service's decision actually makes it easier for the state to proceed with litigation. He indicated that the main purpose of the lawsuit will be to get a judicial review of the scientific adequacy of Wyoming's regulatory proposals as passed by the legislature.
These actions will undoubtedly cause further delays in the delisting process. The Service has already approved management plans by Montana and Idaho. Acceptable plans by all three states are required before wolves can be removed from the endangered species list.
The proposed lawsuit follows a long legal path on this issue. Wyoming filed a previous lawsuit in 2003 that sought to compel the federal government to approve its wolf plan. That lawsuit was dismissed in March 2005 and that decision was later upheld by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Wyoming was premature in its suit because the Service had yet to make a final decision on the plan.
The key concern of the Service is Wyoming's plan to classify wolves as a predator species outside the Greater Yellowstone Area. Predators in Wyoming can be killed on sight, and the Service is concerned the classification would make it difficult to maintain a healthy population of wolves outside of the Area.
In fact, the Service wants and has requested that regulatory authority for wolf management, including regulated hunting, rest with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. However, the Wyoming legislatures' approved regulations place management of wolves outside of the Greater Yellowstone Area in the hands of the state livestock agency, which the Service will not accept.
The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rockies is 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves, with each of the three states maintaining at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves for at least three consecutive years. This goal was met in 2002 and, at the end of 2005, an estimated 1,020 wolves and 71 breeding pairs occupied the northern Rockies.
Reintroduction of wolves to the northern Rockies has never been a smooth and contention-free process. The recent actions tell that the final chapter in this saga is not imminent.