From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 43 - January 22, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Wolf plan brouhaha

by Cat Urbigkit

Last week's rejection of Wyoming's wolf management plan by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service left state officials scrambling to figure out what strategy they should take.

Montana and Idaho officials learned that rejection of the Wyoming plan meant state management of wolves can't begin in their states, with federal officials announcing the delisting process can begin in the tri-state area only once Wyoming changes both its state law and state plan.

FWS Director Steve Williams said in a press release, "Delisting can move forward as soon as Wyoming makes the changes we've identified to both its state law and its wolf management plan, but not until then because these wolves are part of one distinct population segment."

FWS demands the following:

Wyoming's predatory animal status for wolves must be changed to a statewide designation of wolves as "trophy game." That means that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department would be responsible for setting seasons and regulating take, as well as having a financial responsibility to pay for livestock losses due to wolves.

The Wyoming state law must clearly commit to managing at least 15 wolf packs in Wyoming. The current law commits to managing for 15 packs, but only seven packs outside national parks, letting these federally protected areas bear the burden of the majority of the wolf population.

The Wyoming definition of a pack must be consistent among the three states. Some speculate that FWS wants the definition to include at least six wolves, not the five included in Wyoming law.

FWS offered, "If requested, the Service will provide guidance to the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish in developing these three changes."

The FWS announcement led to loud protests from Governor Dave Freudenthal and a lengthy discussion at least week's meeting of the Wyoming Legislature's Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee in Laramie.

Members heard input ranging from whether the state should roll over and play dead by doing whatever the feds want in order to get wolves delisted, to standing firm and fighting it out in court.

Some members of the committee have agreed to have the Legislative Service Office draft a bill addressing the concerns expressed by FWS officials.

Any legislation proposed by the committee must receive a two-thirds vote for introduction during the upcoming budget session, set to begin Feb. 9.

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