Whether conservation groups oppose delisting and file for an injunction or not, hunting in Wyoming will go forward at least through October, because any plaintiff filing against delisting must wait 30 days to file a notice after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service files Sept. 30 in the Federal Register.
Earthjustice’s clients have not decided at this time whether they will take legal action against delisting, said Jenny Harbine, a lawyer with Earthjustice in Bozeman, Mont.
Earthjustice is not a conservation group. Rather they represent conservation groups like Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, Harbine said.
However, because every federal decision regarding wolves in Wyoming has been litigated, it is a fairly safe bet that conservation groups will begin litigation anew.
Hunting would be allowed from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, except in area 12, which would be a seasonal trophy game management area in northern Lincoln and Sublette counties from Oct. 15 to Dec. 31.
The federal government’s decision to delist in Wyoming shows a blatant disregard for thousands of comments from Greater Yellowstone Coalition members opposing delisting.
“We’re deeply disappointed with the decision,” said Chris Colligan, coalition wildlife advocate in Jackson.
Wyoming’s wolf management plan is not biologically sound. More than 80 percent of the state is a predator zone where wolves can be shot on sight, Colligan said.
He did not know if the coalition would sue against delisting. He said the coalition will focus efforts on preventing wolf hunting in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. At this time wolf hunting is not allowed there. The coalition will also work toward protecting wolves around the Jackson area, Colligan said.
Wyoming is to maintain at least 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs, according to the service.
“Anyone who takes a wolf in areas of the state where wolves are designated as predatory animals is required to report the kill to a game warden, biologist, other personnel at a WGFD (Wyoming Game and Fish Department) regional office,” said the Game and Fish.
But Wyoming has no management authority in the predator zone, Colligan said.
“Today’s decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service allows Wyoming to return to the days of random wolf killing that led to the species’ endangerment in the first place,” said Dr. Sylvia Fallon, senior scientist and wildlife conservation director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Rather than provide the leadership necessary to ensure true recovery of wolves in the West, the service has once again allowed politics to win out over science and the law.”
“The Wyoming plan is a case of history repeating itself. It’s masquerading the same shoot-on-sight strategies that wiped wolves out as a management plan,” Fallon said. “And it will only serve to reverse what had been one of the world’s greatest wildlife conservation success stories.”
“Given that Wyoming’s plan has withstood U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review, legal challenges on the previous draft and has twice been reviewed by a panel of some of the best wolf biologists in the world, it would seem like a legal challenge would be contrary to proper management,” said Mark Bruscino, statewide supervisor of the large carnivore management section for the Game and Fish. “A court injunction would do nothing more than delay the proper management of wolves in Wyoming.”
Elk migrating from Sunlight Basin to Yellowstone National Park each spring have fallen prey to grizzly bears and wolves, but they may be rebounding a bit.
Bears and wolves can’t be hunted in Yellowstone, so Wyoming hunters must be given the opportunity to hunt the predators outside the park to protect elk, said Tim Metzler of Powell.
The coalition will be keeping track of the wolf population.
“Just how many wolves are we going to have on the landscape?” Colligan said. “We’re going to monitor that.”