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May 17, 2011 7:25 am

EDITORIAL: Compromise needed for Wyoming to join other states in wolf delisting

Written by Tessa Schweigert

As our neighbors in Idaho and Montana gear up for wolf hunts, hundreds of wolves roaming Wyoming remain on the endangered species list.

Idaho began selling wolf hunting tags May 5 — just a day after the predators were taken off the endangered species list in most states. Montana wildlife officials are looking to issue wolf hunting licenses beginning in August.

Once again, hunters in Wyoming are left watching the controversial predators become the prey of sportsmen in other states, but not here. Until the state and federal government reach an agreement, the fate of Wyoming’s wolves remains uncertain.

Earlier this month, lawmakers lifted federal protections for thousands of gray wolves in most states, marking the first time Congress has removed an animal listed under the endangered act.

“From a biological perspective, gray wolves have recovered,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “That is a remarkable milestone for an iconic American species.”

While wolves have indeed recovered, after years of lawsuits, heated debates and failed attempts at delisting, the species remains “endangered” in Wyoming.

Whether in stubbornness or an anti-wolf stance, Wyoming leaders have insisted on keeping a measure in the state’s plan that would allow wolves to be shot on sight in most of the state. Federal officials (as well as environmentalists) have objected to that plan, preferring wolves be hunted only with a license under a “trophy game” classification — and since an agreement has yet to be reached, Wyoming was left behind in the recent decision.

But the stalemate may end soon.

By this summer, Wyoming may reach an agreement setting new boundaries where wolves could be managed as protected game animals in northwestern Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead told the Associated Press. The state also may allow a minimum of 100 wolves in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone National Park, Mead said.

Gov. Mead’s work toward a compromise and his efforts to continue negotiations with the federal government are commendable.

“The history on this has shown that people are very litigious and have strong feelings about it both ways,” Mead told The Associated Press earlier this spring. “What we want to do is move us forward and get us out from under these lawsuits. Get us to a plan where Wyoming could manage the wolves.”

Like Mead — and most Wyomingites — we want to see the state move forward with a plan and gain control of wolves.

Of course, obstacles remain, especially with Wyoming leaders seeking a clause that would forbid any judicial review of a wolf agreement. We want seemingly never-ending lawsuits to finally come to a halt, but it will be difficult for such a clause to be approved.

After more than 15 years of clashes, controversy and continuing concern over wolves preying on livestock and struggling elk herds, we hope a resolution is near so that wolves, like other wildlife, will be managed by the state.

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