From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 30 - October 20, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Wolf de-listing 'warranted'

by Cat Urbigkit

After evaluating two recent petitions asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the northern Rocky Mountain population of the gray wolf from the federal list of threatened and endangered species, FWS has concluded that substantial information exists indicating that de-listing of this population may be warranted.

The finding is made in response to two petitions: a 2001 petition from the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, Inc., and an 89-page petition filed in July by Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. The state’s petition requested FWS designatethe Northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves as a distinct population segment and concurrently remove the gray wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species in that area.

FWS’s positive 90-day finding will be followed by a more complete 12-month status review of all available data on the Rocky Mountain population of the gray wolf.

“We can safely say that gray wolves in Wyoming are one step closer to being de-listed,” Freudenthal said. “While that is tremendously good news, I’m only sorry that it has taken so long to get to this point and will take so much longer to reach a final decision. I know I speak for many of the state’s residents when I say we will eagerly await next year’s final decision.“

Although a press release from Freudenthal’s office noted,”Among the issues being reconsidered by FWS is whether Wyoming’s existing regulatory mechanisms can protect the gray wolf population within its borders if the wolf is de-listed,” in its press release FWS noted that its “warranted” finding “does not alter the FWS’s 2003 conclusion that the State of Wyoming’s existing regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to protect the gray wolf population within its borders in the event that the wolf is de-listed.”

FWS will review this issue during the 12-month status review and pledged to “continue to work with the State of Wyoming to ensure that the state’s statutes and wolf management plan contain adequate post-delisting protections for the gray wolf.”

The finding was not affected by recent litigation involving challenges to FWS’s 2003 reclassification of gray wolf populations from endangered to threatened throughout much of the species’ current range in the United States, including the northern Rocky Mountains.

FWS is still evaluating its legal options after recent lower-court decisions invalidated that reclassification. No decision has been made on whether to appeal those rulings.

In its most recent survey FWS counted 912 wolves in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Assuming wolf populations continue to grow at the same rate, that would mean between 990 and 1,000 wolves in the tri-state region by next summer.

“Wyoming’s wolf management plan has been created to ensure adequate population levels that will keep the wolf off the endangered species list,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Director Terry Cleveland. “Our plan has undergone exhaustive internal review, professional scrutiny and public input, and we’re confident that it strikes the proper balance needed to protect wolves in northwestern Wyoming while also keeping conflicts between wolves and people, and between wolves and livestock, to a minimum.”

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