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April 12, 2011 7:28 am

Wyoming heads toward possible wolf delisting

Written by Gib Mathers

After U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson dealt Wyoming a favorable hand, the state may be able to play its trump cards to get wolves delisted.

“I think that there is a chance that this can happen,” said Steve Ferrell, policy adviser to Gov. Matt Mead.

Ferrell, former director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, admits he is an optimist, but he said Wyoming citizens would like to see the matter resolved and so would Congress.

Ferrell has been traveling around northwest Wyoming seeking input from the public, the latest with members of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife in Cody last week.

Ferrell said only a handful of Wyomingites want to see the wolf remain on the Endangered Species list; most in Wyoming favor delisting.

“The vast majority says, ‘Let’s pursue this,’” Ferrell said. 

The governor wants delisting too, Ferrell said.

In November 2010, Johnson said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rejection of Wyoming’s wolf plan was not based on sound science. He said the service should revisit Wyoming’s plan to determine whether the proposed trophy game zone is adequate to sustain the wolf population.

In March, the service withdrew its appeal in Federal District Court that had questioned Wyoming’s wolf plan.

Then, on Saturday, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula denied a proposed settlement by Fish and Wildlife and 10 conservation groups that would have delisted wolves in Montana and Idaho.

Around one month ago, the service suggested expanding the trophy game zone along the southern boundary in Wyoming to allow Wyoming and Idaho wolves connectivity.

The service believes the sub-adult wolves need a dispersal window from November to March. Wyoming believes January to February would be adequate time for young adults to disperse, Ferrell said.

Big chunks of the proposed boundary are in national forest, but a third of the boundary would be on private and Bureau of Land Management land, Ferrell said.

That third is livestock winter range, and wolf predation could lead to conflicts. Elk and deer also winter there, Ferrell said.

So the boundary alterations would be points of discussion with the service. So far, no discussions have taken place between federal and Wyoming officials, Ferrell said.

Assuming Wyoming and the federal government can hammer out an agreement is no guarantee conservation groups will not contest any compromise.

“I think there will always be litigation surrounding the wolf issue,” Ferrell said.

Congress needs to protect delisting from judicial review to halt further legal challenges, Ferrell said.

Last month, U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said the only way to ensure delisting is by making it law.

On Saturday, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said wolves in Montana and Idaho would be taken off the endangered list under the budget bill pending before Congress, according to the Associated Press.

Science should dictate which plants and animals should be protected, not the whims of politicians, said Andrew Wetzler, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council wildlife conservation program.

Sportsmen’s groups are lobbying Congress to amend the rider to include delisting in Wyoming once Fish and Wildlife OKs Wyoming’s plan, Ferrell said.

Stand-alone bills in Congress also aim at delisting wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, Ferrell said.

Within the trophy game zone, livestock growers are compensated by the state of Wyoming for stock loss due to wolves. Those outside the trophy zone receive no compensation, said Louisa Willcox, Natural Resources Defense Council senior wildlife advocate in Livingston, Mont.

So, the grower outside the trophy zone still will not receive compensation.

Arbitrary lines on a map cut both ways. Producers don’t get redress for losses, and wolves run a gauntlet trying to connect with other wolves outside the trophy game area, Willcox said.

The predator zone “just seems like an old hang-up Wyoming would be smart to get over,” Willcox said.

2 comments

  • Comment Link April 12, 2011 9:18 am posted by Dewey

    ...as if ranchers and the political lobby group Sportsmen for Sportsmen are the only stakeholders worthy of being in the jury box when wolves are on trial...

    This narrow exclusionary selection of who can provide input to former US Attorney and now Governor Matt Mead, and the rest of Wyoming's Anti-Wolf Cabal positively reeks of special interest politics and even corruption.

    Ferrell should know better, but then again his old agency Wyoming Game and Fish long ago decided ( wrongly) that wolves are not wildlife; have no positive value; can't be used for revenue; and have small to no place on the landscape if it affects elk hunting in any small way.

    Just when you thought the Great Wolf Debate could not descend further into the abyss of pride and prejudice ...

  • Comment Link April 15, 2011 10:09 am posted by Taylor

    What I find truly fascinating is the lack of response from environmental groups regarding the alarming drop in the moose population in the GYE and the impending gas drilling in the Noble Basin, blocking migration routes for mule deer and pronghorn. Why is that? Where are the law suits stopping the gas development in the national forest, where is the rush to fund action to protect the dwindling moose population? Wolves are a weapon special interest groups use to raise money and attack those with a different ideology. And they're so cute... "They look just like this malamute I saw in the dog park in Denver"... Please.

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