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December 16, 2008 3:39 am

Wolf decision shouldn't be rushed

Written by Tribune Staff

Word of a Bush administration plan to remove wolves from the endangered species list, again, wasn't a big surprise.

But that it could happen by the end of this week has many people questioning whether the decision is too hasty.

Of the three states directly affected — Montana, Idaho and Wyoming — our state has the most at stake. While the three states' management plans each created trophy game zones for wolves, Wyoming's also contains a predator area — about 90 percent of the state — where wolves could be shot at any time, by anyone.

The cowboy state's dual-status plan is under fire from conservation and animal rights groups, and it is one of the reasons U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy issued an injunction against the delisting in July. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has final approval of Wyoming's management plan — and even though the service accepted the plan in early 2008, Gov. Dave Freudenthal's office says the governor has been told the plan won't be accepted unless the dual-status classification is changed.

Without the Fish and Wildlife Service's endorsement of Wyoming's plan, an immediate decision on the issue could result in wolves being delisted in Idaho and Montana, while remaining under federal protection in Wyoming.

That scenario moves Wyoming back to square one and would only open the door for many more years of costly lawsuits brought by groups on both sides of the issue.

The right management plan — one that would maintain a viable wolf population in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, but also protect the state's livestock industry — should be developed through methodical scientific planning and, of course, with compromise on both sides.

It's not a decision that should be made in haste to further a political agenda.