U.S. Weighs Wyoming Request on Wolf Status
CHEYENNE, Wyo. The federal government said Monday that it will review Wyoming's request to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list after a 10-year effort to restore the predator's population.
The government cannot move forward with a proposal to remove the wolf from the list until Montana, Idaho and Wyoming adopt wolf-management plans deemed acceptable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wyoming is the only state without an approved plan.
Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the agency, said the announcement does not mean it has changed its mind about Wyoming's plan. Rather, he said, officials simply decided that some of the ideas raised by the state in a petition this summer deserved a closer look.
"Hopefully people won't read any more into this than that," he said.
Since their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park a decade ago, gray wolves have flourished, with more than 900 now estimated to be living in the three states. The Fish and Wildlife Service has declared wolf recovery a success in the northern Rockies.
In July, Wyoming officials petitioned to have wolves removed from federal protection, seeking more control over the predators amid complaints from farmers and ranchers who say the growing wolf population poses a threat to wildlife, livestock and pets.
The agency plans to review Wyoming's petition over the next nine months and one submitted in 2001 by a wildlife advocacy group before making a decision, Bangs said.
Part of the federal government's responsibility is ensuring adequate protection for wolves after they are removed from protection so "you don't watch the species go down the tubes," Bangs said.
"We believe in public hunting of wolves and all that stuff," he said. "But you can't just kill too many wolves, or they'll disappear again."
Gov. Dave Freudenthal welcomed the government's announcement and said he eagerly awaited a final decision.
The state and federal governments have long been at odds over Wyoming's plan for managing wolves.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has been concerned that Wyoming's plan would allow wolves that wandered beyond the greater Yellowstone area to be shot with little regulation.
Wyoming sued over the plan's rejection in 2004. A federal judge in Cheyenne dismissed the lawsuit in March, saying the federal government had not violated the Endangered Species Act because the rejection did not change the wolves' status under the act.
Wyoming has appealed that decision.
Source: Associated Press