From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 36 - December 4, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Wolf plan doesn't comply with law

by Cat Urbigkit

The wolf-management plan adopted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission doesn't comply with the wolf law enacted by the Wyoming Legislature, according to several speakers at a recent wolf forum in Pinedale.

District 16 Senator Delaine Roberts said that during the legislative session, a hearing was held to let people testify about wolves.

"Most all testified of the devastation caused by wolves," Roberts said.

"I represent the district with the majority of the wolves," Roberts said. "People are angry - people are angry that the federal government put these wolves upon us and we can't do anything about it."

Roberts said that one problem with the state wolf-management plan adopted by the WG&F Commission is that the Gros Ventre Wilderness was included as an area where trophy game status would apply to wolves. The statute called for only those wilderness areas "contiguous" to the national parks and parkway.

"The Gros Ventre is not contiguous to Grand Teton park," Roberts said.

Roberts was also frustrated that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wouldn't simply step forward and tell Wyoming what the bottom line management plan for getting wolves delisted would be. Instead, the agency, which was involved in the planning process, complained that the legislature adopted a law leaving wolves classified as predators in some areas of the state.

"I'm very upset and I'm angry too," Roberts said. "I don't know what we can do about it, but rest assured that I am going to do all I can to get these wolves delisted.

"I'm not going to bow to the federal government if they come up and say 'Look, you better take the word predator off of there.' They're going to have problems because that will have to come to my committee in the senate. I'm not going to be very amiable - we put that in there for good reason and I think that has good reason."

Roberts concluded, "I hope you've got the impression that I'm anti-wolf, because I am."

Marvin Applequist of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation explained that the state's agricultural organizations met with other groups and WG&F during the legislative session to draft the legislation that was eventually adopted.

We sat down and we compromised," Applequist said. "We tried to come up with something we could live with."

Part of that involved the state managing for seven wolf packs and only seven wolf packs, Applequist said.

"Unfortunately, that language keeps getting twisted," he said, adding, "the current management plan doesn't reflect what is in that law."

Applequist agreed that the Gros Ventre Wilderness had never been meant to be included in the plan.

Applequist cautioned that in the future, there will be talk that livestock producers are opposed to delisting. He clarified that producers want delisting, "but not under any conditions."

WG&F Commissioner Doyle Dorner of Evanston said the commission went through a lot of argument and compromise to develop the wolf-management plan. He said the seven-member commission never reached unanimous agreement, but the majority felt that the state should work to get the wolf delisted first, "then we can have the argument in Wyoming ... so that we can manage them as we see fit."

Roberts predicted FWS wouldn't approve Wyoming's plan: "They're not going to approve this, they're not going to approve Wyoming's plan. We're going to have to go back to the legislature and it's going to be a dog-and-cat fight."

Dorner suggested that with a state management plan in place, Wyoming is on better footing now than it has been in the past.

"The state didn't really have a standing until now," Dorner said.

Pinedale rancher Albert Sommers asked Roberts if he believes the state wolf management plan complies with the law enacted by the legislature.

"Well, I don't think it does," said Roberts, adding that he told the WG&F Commission that he would support the position they adopted. That position, in the form of the state wolf management plan, is what Roberts now agrees does not comply with the state law he helped to enact.

Sommers asked Dorner the same thing. Dorner said he had reservations about it, but after repeatedly asking different sectors of government, he had been assured that it did comply.

"My gut feeling is that it did not," Dorner said. He said he made the motion to adopt the plan because he wants wolves delisted for one primary reason. The current federal wolf-recovery plan does not allow the killing of wolves to protect big game populations, Dorner said, "meanwhile our ungulate herds are getting pounded."

Dorner concluded, "My compromise was to pass that plan as written in an effort to get these guys delisted so we can protect our deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep and whatever else is out there."

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