Northern Rockies? gray wolf delisting possibly no longer detained

Northern Rockies? gray wolf delisting possibly no longer detained

In a move that could end a stalemate that has hindered the delisting of gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain region from the federal Endangered Species Act, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (Commission) released its revised Wolf Management Plan for public comment on September 7. According to the Wildlife Management Institute, the plan includes several provisions recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and is expected to be approved by that agency, paving the way for delisting of the species by early 2008.

The recovery goal for wolves in the Northern Rockies (30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves) was reached in 2002. The FWS proposed delisting the species, contingent upon acceptable plans by the state wildlife management agencies in the region that will assume management authority upon delisting. The Idaho and Montana plans were approved, but Wyoming's plan included provisions that were unacceptable to the FWS. Those provisions would have classified wolves as predators in the majority of the state (essentially, allowing them to be shot on sight), with a small area in the northwestern part of the state where they would be designated as trophy game animals. Without FWS approval, the delisting process has been stalled for several years.

Consistent with House Bill 0213 passed by the Wyoming legislature this year and responding to recommendations from the FWS, the new draft plan addresses the primary sticking points. The region in which the wolves will be classified as trophy game animals will be expanded. The state will maintain 15 breeding pairs of wolves within the state, with 7 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and the John D. Rockefeller National Parkway. The state also agrees not to allow the wolf population to fall below 10 breeding pairs and 100 individuals.

Upon delisting, legal wolf mortality will be allowed through agency removals, public take (i.e., hunting and trapping) or in defense of life or private property. The only area where wolves will be fully protected will be within Yellowstone National Park and surrounding wilderness areas. The plan establishes wolf management units, and the Commission will promulgate regulations for trophy management in the northwestern part of Wyoming and establish a regulated hunting and/or trapping program. Wolf mortality throughout the state will be closely monitored.

The comment period for the draft plan includes four public meetings across Wyoming and will extend until October 10, before final approval by the Commission at its November meeting. Once approved by the Commission, the plan will be forwarded to the FWS. (jas)

September 07, 2007