From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 39 - December 24, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

WG&F pushes for wolf delisting

by Cat Urbigkit

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is pleased with the peer review of its wolf management plan, agency officials said in a recent letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

FWS had 11 wolf scientists independently review wolf plans approved by Wyoming, Idaho and Montana wildlife officials.

After reviewed the resulting 11 letters of comment, WG&F Interim Director Gregg Arthur responded: "We feel they provide a solid endorsement of the adequacy of the three state plans from an unbiased biological viewpoint. We hope these reviews provide the FWS adequate reassurance that proceeding with delisting is the proper course of action."

WG&F endorsed Dr. L. David Mech's views on the Wyoming plan. Mech wrote: "I judge that each of the state plans will achieve its objective because each proposes monitoring and regulations that should assure that human-related wolf-taking will not reduce state pack numbers to less than 15. Given the adequate prey base that appears available in each state, and assuming that known diseases will not affect this wolf population any more than they do others, and that new diseases will not arise, this protection from human-caused mortality should insure maintaining this wolf population at 30 or more breeding packs for the foreseeable future."

Although nine of the 11 experts discussed the complexities that dual status poses for Wyoming's management plan, WG&F again turned to Mech, who stated: "The classification of wolves in some parts of Wyoming as predators has been mentioned as a possible hindrance to Wyoming's ability to maintain 15 packs. However, the Wyoming plan has an apparent fail-safe mechanism that allows changing the area of predator designation and regulations when numbers of packs drop to 7 aside from the assumed 8 or more packs in the park. Thus regardless of how the wolf is classified outside the 15-pack area, or what the regulations are for the predator classification, guaranteeing a 15-pack minimum should suffice to meet the state's goals."

WG&F also pointed out that all the reviewers felt Wyoming's monitoring plan was adequate. Arthur wrote: "The specificity in Wyoming's plan was designed to demonstrate that the state would have the ability to measure harvest and population status in Wyoming. Additional regulation or prohibition of take can be implemented in a timely manner to ensure that harvest in the trophy game animal area of the state or in the predatory animal portions of the state does not jeopardize the maintenance of seven wolf packs outside the national parks. Maintenance of two or three radio collars in each pack, frequent aerial surveillance in addition to mandatory reporting of all wolf kills, including active investigation of unreported kills and prosecution of violations, will give the Wyoming Game and Fish Department the ability to regulate take and change the geographic size national parks."

When it comes to funding, the state wildlife agencies all agree that there needs to be a major commitment from the federal government.

"Without national funding, the financial burden to manage these species for the benefit of all citizens falls solely on the three states," Arthur wrote. "Managing this large predator, as well as grizzly bears, in balance with other uses of these lands in the three states, comes with substantial costs. Even though the states will provide some funding for these management costs, it is imperative that hunters, ranchers and citizens not bear the entire costs for managing these species. The citizens and legislatures of the three states feel adamant that national funding for the majority of costs is essential to spread the burden of cost fairly and equitably among all the citizens of the United States."

Arthur was frank in discussing the consequences: "Much of the current resistance and mistrust from Wyoming citizens concerning wolves and grizzly bears is the concern that conflicts will not be managed effectively due to insufficient staff and resources. A substantial national commitment to funding the management plans outlined in the three state wolf management plans will be instrumental in developing additional support for endangered species recovery in general and ensure the success of wolf recovery."

Arthur's letter concluded: "Gray wolves have reached the recovery goals set by USFWS for the northern Rocky Mountains. There is no biological reason not to delist the wolf. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and Department are confident that Wyoming's statutes and wolf plan provide adequate monitoring and regulatory mechanisms to assure a viable wolf population will be maintained in Wyoming and support the maintenance of the Northern Rocky Mountain population. As stated earlier, we feel the independent peer review provides a solid endorsement of the adequacy of the three state wolf plans."

With the written responses from the state wildlife agencies, the peer review process is now complete. The next step is for FWS staff to develop its independent recommendations for the FWS Director to consider. FWS Director Steve Williams is expected to decide if the three state plans are adequate, which he has stated that he intends to do by early 2004. If the decision is that the plans are adequate, the next step is to formally propose delisting.

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