From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 46 - February 12, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Gov on wolf law

by Cat Urbigkit

Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal spoke out about wolves during his State of the State speech to the Wyoming Legislature Monday morning.

Freudenthal has expressed frustration that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Wyoming's wolf plan as inadequate in terms of having the federal agency begin the delisting process. He has even threatened litigation on the issue.

Although Freudenthal appeared to be talking tough in this State of the State address, what he also did was endorse legislation that would substantially give FWS what it wants.

In Monday's address, Freudenthal said: 'Here's the bottom line for me: I want to see that species delisted, but it is not delisting at any price."

He said if the plan the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would accept does not give the state the authority to manage wolves, "then it is not an effective delisting."

Freudenthal said, "It is not about delisting, we all support delisting. It's about the terms under which delisting will occur in Wyoming."

Freudenthal told the legislators, "If somebody comes up to you and says, 'This is about semantics, it's about the word predator,' it is not about the word predator - it's about getting delisting on a rational basis."

As for wolves having "predator" status, Freudenthal said, "I don't care what you call them." But it's the predator versus trophy game status that concerns the feds.

Freudenthal asked the legislature to pass House Bill 111, which he said would "slightly modify" the wolf legislation enacted last year. He said," I ask that you consider that, because it aligns the law exactly with the plan."

Freudenthal said there will be opposition to HB111, "There are those who intend to oppose that legislation, and will be lobbying against it, on the premise that they don't want anything changed. But I'll tell ya that the real premise is that they don't like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. I am not one of those who finds our game and fish department to be less than adequate. I would encourage you to trust those professionals, make the legislation happen, give us a chance, if we have to go to court, to have the statute that exactly parallels the plan that we have in place."

The FWS rejected the Wyoming wolf plan based on three major concerns:

allowing wolves to have predator status in some areas, rather than trophy game status statewide;

failing to commit to at least 15 packs of wolves in the state; and

concern for Wyoming's definition of a pack, which includes five wolves.

HB111, sponsored by the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee and endorsed by Freudenthal, addresses all three issues in some manner.

The bill gets rid of the problematic wording calling for wolves to retain trophy game status in national parks in western Wyoming as well as "federally designated wilderness areas contiguous to these national parks...". The bill defines these national parks by name and now specifically names the Gros Ventre Wilderness area as being included.

The bill commits Wyoming to maintaining at least 15 packs of wolves within the state, including those within national parks. A pack is defined in the way FWS had earlier suggested, to mean "five or more gray wolves that form a group in winter."

The dual classification of wolves would remain, under the proposal, but with different terms than before. According to the proposed legislation, the WG&F Commission will classify wolves as trophy game animals "within that area of the state the commission determines is necessary to reasonably ensure that at the end of the current calendar year at least seven packs of wolves are located in the state and primarily outside of Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, and at least 15 packs of gray wolves are located in this state including those specified areas."

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