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

Wyoming plan adequate, reviewers say

by Cat Urbigkit

Nearly every one of the 11 wolf biologists surveyed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agree that Wyoming's wolf management plan, when combined with plans adopted by Idaho and Montana, will sustain wolf populations at or above recovery levels for the foreseeable future.

Wolf guru L. David Mech of Minnesota noted that Wyoming's classification of wolves as predators in some areas of the state has been mentioned as a possible hindrance to the state's ability to maintain 25 packs, to which he disagrees. Mech said Wyoming's plan contains an adequate "fail-safe mechanism" to assure wolf numbers are maintained.

Mech also noted that some news reports indicate Wyoming's plan conflicts with Wyoming's laws. To this, he stated, "If so, obviously such a problem must also be solved before one could have faith that the Wyoming plan could be put into effect."

Bill Paul of USDA Wildlife Services in Minnesota wrote that while the Wyoming plan "appears to be the least tolerant of allowing wolves to expand or persist in areas of the state where they are not causing conflicts," which Paul noted was logical considering that Yellowstone National Park will continue to provide a reservoir of protected wolves to continue to colonize western Wyoming.

Many of the reviewers comments noted that the state plans call for federal funding, which may mean the plans are actually unfunded.

But it appears one issue that FWS hasn't come to grips with yet is the predator classification for wolves in most of Wyoming. In a letter last week to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, FWS Director Steve Williams requested WG&F respond to all the comments generated by the reviewers, but added, "we particularly ask that your responses address the following issues of concern identified by the reviewers:

That the Wyoming plan classifies all wolf packs outside national parks and wilderness areas as predators subject to unregulated take."

Williams also asked the state to address the fact that the Wyoming plan relies extensively on federal funding "that may or may not be available in future years."

According to FWS Wolf Recovery Coordinator Ed Bangs, his agency has requested that the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming "look over the reviewer comments and respond/clarify any misunderstandings made by the reviewers about the state wolf management plans."

Bangs continued: "The Service will evaluate all the reviewer comments and all state responses to them during its independent analysis of whether the state wolf management plans are adequate to proceed with delisting. The Service intends to make that determination by early 2004. Subsequently, the Service will make the separate decision whether to formally propose that wolves be delisted. Any delisting proposal would be widely publicized and provide ample opportunities for public comment."

Williams' letter to WG&F noted that his agency's preliminary evaluation as to the adequacy of the state management plan will be made as quickly as possible, "hopefully well before your state legislatures convene in 2004.

"A decision to delist a species is a mixed question of science and policy," Williams wrote.

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