Volume 105, Number 51 - December 18, 2008
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New wolf delisting might be coming soon
Wolf management in Wyoming is about to reach another critical juncture.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will more than likely publish a new wolf-delisting rule by the end of this year.
“What we’ve been hearing is that the rule may come out this week,” said Franz Camenzind, director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. “We’re a little surprised at the speed in which they’re doing this.”
The FWS received over 200,000 comments regarding a possible delisting rule this time around, but the ruling may ultimately come down to one thing: Whether to include Wyoming or not.
“The director is going to decide what we do on that,” said Ed Bangs, FWS wolf coordinator.
When a district court judge put the wolves back on endangered protection, he had specifically noted Wyoming’s predator zone as a possible problem. So far, the state has been reluctant to change its own management plan.
“The court certainly zeroed in on it,” Bangs said. “The whole issue with the court was certainly on Wyoming.”
The delisting rule would actually come out before the next Wyoming legislative session, preventing the state from even attempting to modify its management plan beforehand. Some have contended that the Bush administration is trying to push the ruling before it is forced to leave at the end of the year, forcing a sloppy conclusion for a tough issue during its watch.
“We’ve been talking with Wyoming since 2002, and that’s ongoing,” Bangs said. “The service believes that the wolf population is recovered.”
Regardless of the FWS director’s decision, more lawsuits will ultimately follow any new ruling. Whether the changes in language will convince a judge remains to be seen.
“We’re trying to make everything a lot clearer,” Bangs said. “Hopefully it will be a much better rule.”
Leaving Wyoming out of the delisting would likely still provoke lawsuits.
“I think segmenting Wyoming out would bring about some strange bedfellows,” Camenzind said. “I could see conservation organizations bringing suit against that decision and I could see the state of Wyoming bringing suit against that.”
Conservation groups would more than likely take issue because a ruling without Wyoming would split the Greater Yellowstone Area, and issues of connectivity were important to the original lawsuit against the delisting. The state has long sought control of wolf management.
Regardless, officials are left to play the waiting game.
“We are hoping to get a delisting ruling out before the end of the year,” Bangs said. “My experience is that bureaucracy always moves slower (on whether a ruling will come this week).”
“There’s so many possibilities with this soon-to-be-released rule that it’s hard to attach scenarios,” Camenzind added. “We’re all waiting to see what this is going to say.”
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