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July 12, 2011 8:12 am

EDITORIAL: Lone wolves no longer?

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Delisting may be in sight for wolves in Wyoming

In the near future, management of Wyoming’s wolves should be exactly where it belongs — in the hands of the state.

During discussions last week, state and U.S. officials said they expect to publish a ruling by September detailing how to end federal protections for wolves in Wyoming and allow state management.

 

 

What welcome news for Wyomingites who have endured years of heated debates, inexhaustible lawsuits and little resolve since gray wolves were reintroduced in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in the mid-1990s.

Frustratingly, the Cowboy State is the last state in the Northern Rockies where wolves remain on the endangered species list. It’s certainly been aggravating for many in Wyoming to watch as our neighbors in Idaho and Montana gained control of their wolf populations, allowing for hunts to take place in those states, but not here.

Many livestock producers, sportsmen and residents don’t want wolves — and they also don’t want to stand by as wolves thrive, elk populations dwindle, livestock herds are threatened and Wyoming is stuck in a stalemate.

“They realized if we don’t do something, we’re in a losing position,” Gov. Matt Mead said last week.

We’re glad Gov. Mead has worked toward a plan with the federal government to finally end the wolf stalemate.

Some compromise was needed.

Wyoming leaders have long insisted on keeping a measure in the state’s management plan that would allow wolves to be shot on sight in most of the state. Federal officials (as well as environmentalists) have long objected to that plan, preferring wolves be hunted only with a license under a “trophy game” classification.

The pending agreement calls for Wyoming to commit to keeping 100 wolves alive in the state outside Yellowstone. A possible “flex zone” also would be created south of Jackson, allowing wolves to be protected and free to migrate in a specified area through the winter, but left unprotected during other seasons, Mead said.

Wyoming may win its long-fought battle to keep much of the state as a “predator zone,” where wolves could be shot on sight. The exception is the northwestern corner of the state, where wolves would be considered trophy game.

However, the battle hasn’t been won yet.

Questions remain about whether the deal will be exempted from judicial review. Congress granted such protections against lawsuits to wolf delisting efforts in Idaho and Montana earlier this spring.

Though some details and questions still must be resolved, Wyoming finally is making progress to ensure wolves — like most wildlife — are managed by the state.

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