Feds nearly ready to accept state management plan
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY —Wyoming officials are pressing ahead with their plan to kill most wolves living outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The state recently passed legislation and an amendment to its wolf management plan that’s close to gaining approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, triggering the final removal of Endangered Species Act protection for the predators.
The new law and plan would take effect later this year when wolves are removed from the federal endangered species list. The state wants to increase the area where wolves would be designated as predators and could be killed without limit; they also keep in place a trophy game management area, where hunting will be allowed to dramatically reduce wolf populations.
What federal officials are acquiescing to is to confine wolves to the northwest corner of the state … They’re presenting to the public the new plan as a fait accompli,” said wolf advocate Michael Robinson, with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Robinson said Wyoming’s wolf-management plan is “a recipe for wolf slaughter that will only serve to incite more of the prejudice against wolves that led to their destruction in the first place.”
He said the federal government is not living up to the Endangered Species Act requirements that call for species to be recovered across significant portions of their former range.
Instead of piece-mealing the delisting and recovery effort, Robinson said the federal government should look at wolf populations holistically and develop a national recovery plan that lives up to the letter and spirit of the Endangered Species Act.
“Removal of federal protections for wolves has been a disaster in Idaho and Montana and will be even worse in Wyoming,” he said.
While wolves would remain fully protected within Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, elsewhere in Wyoming they would be subject to shooting, trapping and snaring.
Wyoming proposes designating wolves as predators across 83 percent of the state, where there would no limits on their killing. The remaining portion of the state would be considered a “trophy game management area,” where killing wolves would be permitted, with the goal of reducing the population from approximately 29 packs to around 10.
“Along with the killing of wolves in Idaho and Montana, which had their protection taken away last year through a back-door congressional rider, this planned persecution of wolves in Wyoming could be devastating to the beautiful animals’ survival in the northern Rocky Mountains,” said Robinson. “Killing most of Wyoming’s wolves will hurt wolves in Colorado, too, where they’re only starting to return by way of Wyoming.”
Since wolf hunting and trapping seasons opened last fall, 378 wolves have been killed in Idaho, which has no cap on killing and several ongoing open seasons. An additional 166 wolves were killed in Montana, which has now closed its season. Contrary to promises, hunting and trapping have appeared to inflame anti-wolf sentiment, with comments and pictures appearing on the Internet that boast of wolf killing and call for more slaughter.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened a two-week comment period, during which feedback is sought from the public before the agency finalizes the delisting rule.
In October 2011 the Obama administration announced finalization of an agreement between the Fish and Wildlife Service and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead whereby the agency would remove wolves in Wyoming from the federal endangered species list and the state would only be required to keep alive 100 wolves or 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks (which together provide habitat for a few dozen wolves that would remain protected while in the parks).
After pups are born within the next few weeks, it is likely that more than 500 wolves will live outside the national parks in Wyoming. The state plan will allow their unregulated killing throughout most of the state.