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Wolf management plan reached

Wyoming, feds announce wolf deal Wednesday

Gov. Matt Mead and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have finalized elements of a wolf plan, but not all are cheering just yet.

Under the plan, Wyoming will maintain at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park.

Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody, likes the numbers, but he does not want Fish and Wildlife looking over Wyoming’s shoulder as the state goes about managing wolves. Nor does he want Wyoming to get wolf management and then have it revoked by the federal government.

“I hope that Secretary (of Interior) Salazar understands that we (Wyoming Legislature) don’t trust him,” Childers said.

The trophy game management area would extend about 50 miles to the south from its current location near the Wyoming/Idaho border. The expansion area would be managed as a trophy game management area from Oct. 15 to the end of February. For all other months wolves would be managed as predators in the extension area, said a Wednesday news release from the governor’s office.

Aerial gunning of wolves inside the trophy game management area, directed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, will be allowed to control livestock depredations, to achieve ungulate management objectives or to address human safety issues, according to a wolf management agreement fact sheet distributed by Mead’s office. However, other aerial gunning for routine wolf population maintenance inside the area is prohibited.

The governor has been communicating with members of the Wyoming Legislature about the proposed plan, said Renny MacKay, communications director for Mead.

The 2012 Wyoming Legislature session begins in February, but Mead has not ruled out a special session. He will survey members of the Legislature and stakeholders — hunters, outfitters and ranchers — about holding a special session. The governor never speculates on how a bill will fare in the Legislature, MacKay said.

“I’d be willing to have a special session,” Childers said.

Powell hunter Tim Metzler said he understands that a deal was needed to place the canines into Wyoming management hands, but what of the ranchers in the expansion or flex zone?

“If they wanted to do it in the Big Horns, I would absolutely say no.” Metzler said. “Those (in the flex zone) are the people that are going to have to live with it.”

Mead has said he wants Congress to ratify the plan. “For too long, wolf management has been run by the courts; we need Wyoming people to have a say in what happens in our state and a congressionally approved plan is the best way to ensure that we advance this effort.”

Chris Colligan, Wyoming wildlife advocate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said he believes the push to exempt the agreement from legal review shows the deal is politically motivated and not supported by sound science.

“It says that Wyoming and certainly our congressional representatives, they know that this plan is not legally or biologically sufficient,” Colligan said to the Associated Press.

Metzler said if the state can manage the population at 100 wolves, elk and other big game populations should be sustainable.

Wolves were introduced to Yellowstone and the Rocky Mountain region in the mid 1990s, and a contentious dogfight of lawsuits and polarization has occurred in Wyoming and across the country ever since.

Giving Wyoming wolf management is long overdue. “It’s time,” Metzler said.

“Let us have it,” Childers said. “We’ll do a good job.”

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