Conservation advocates say state plan doesn’t meet Endangered Species Act requirements
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Wyoming’s wolf management plan is more like wolf eradication, wildlife advocates said this week, announcing they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent the agency from lifting Endangered Species Act protection for the animals.
Earthjustice will represent Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club in the lawsuit.Wyoming’s management plan may not meet Endangered Species Act requirements for adequate regulatory mechanisms to maintain species once they’re de-listed, Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine said in a previous interview with Summit Voice.
Conservation advocates say the state plan will permit nearly indiscriminate slaughter of wolves and provide inadequate protection for wolves even where killing is regulated.
In its de-listing decision, the USFWS said the state plan will ensure a self-sustaining population of wolves based on the best available science, an assertion that is now being challenged by the conservation groups, who have a history of prevailing on this issue.
Management decisions of controversial species like wolves is often based on equal parts politics and science, and that may not be good enough should a federal court choose a strict interpretation of the Endangered Species Act.
“Wyoming’s wolf management plan is poor policy, weak in its protection of wolves, and is based on flimsy science,” said Franz Camenzind, a retired Ph.D. wildlife biologist who lives in the Jackson Hole area. “Wyoming’s plan sets a very disturbing precedent for other states by abdicating management responsibility of a native wildlife species over nearly 90 percent of the state.”
“Wyoming’s anti-wolf policies take the state backward, to the days when wolf massacres nearly wiped out wolves in the lower-48 states. Our nation rejected such predator extermination efforts when we adopted the Endangered Species Act,” said Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has turned its back on Wyoming wolves, but we intend to ask the federal courts to make sure that wolves on the border of Yellowstone—our nation’s first national park—have the protections they need to thrive.”
Wolf management policy in adjacent states is clearly driven by bloodlust and hatred of the species. Montana and Idaho have expanded their wolf quotas and hunting seasons. In the 2011-2012 hunting season, hunters and trappers killed 545 wolves in Idaho and Montana. The two states have designed wolf hunting regulations for the 2012-2013 season that will result in even greater wolf killing.
Even while approving state management in Montana and Idaho, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the past denied this authority to Wyoming due to its extreme anti-wolf laws. Since then, Wyoming’s wolf management laws have only slightly changed, reducing the area where year-long, unregulated wolf killing is permitted from 90 percent of the state to about 85 percent of the state.
Wyoming law allows unlimited wolf killing in the vast majority of the state, including aerial gunning of wolves and even killing wolf pups in their dens. Even in the limited areas of the state where wolf killing is supposed to be regulated under Wyoming law, some people have discussed baiting wolves into conflict with domestic animals to justify reducing wolf numbers.
The Endangered Species Act exists to protect America’s wildlife, including wolves. Handing management authority for wolves over to a state with policies that are openly hostile to wolves and fail to ensure the wolf’s survival violates the Endangered Species Act.