Feb 28

WY: House accepts wolf management bill

House accepts wolf management bill

By BEN NEARY

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The Wyoming House of Representatives voted Wednesday to accept a wolf management bill that would leave it up to the governor to negotiate with the federal government the boundaries of a permanent wolf management area in the northwestern corner of the state.

Proponents of the bill say it will let Wyoming try to negotiate an end to the three-year standoff with the federal government over wolf management. The state sued the federal government over its rejection of the state’s first wolf plan in 2004.

The bill would allow Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s administration to negotiate with the federal government over the boundaries of a permanent wolf management area within which wolves would be treated as trophy game animals that could only be killed by licensed hunters. Outside that area, they would be treated as predators that could be shot on sight.

Wyoming’s lack of a wolf management plan acceptable to the federal government has prevented wolves from being removed from federal Endangered Species Act protections in Wyoming as well as in Montana and Idaho.

The bill that passed the House on 33-26 on Wednesday specifies that it will be void after February 2008 unless the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes wolves from protection under the list by then the state has management authority.

The Fish and Wildlife Service last month announced that it intends to remove wolves from its list of threatened and endangered species within a year. The agency says it’s prepared to keep federal protections in place in Wyoming alone if the state hasn’t developed an acceptable management plan in time.

The Wyoming State Senate has already voted to approve the wolf management bill. A spokesman for Freudenthal said the governor wasn’t immediately available to respond to the House vote. However, the governor has said he supports the legislation and had hoped it would reach his desk.

Mitch King, regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver, said Wednesday that the House vote was great news.

King said that the bill would allow the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to negotiate an acceptable wolf management plan with his agency. He said his agency intends to have a final decision on its proposal to remove wolves form protection under the Endangered Species Act by next January, but said he couldn’t predict whether legal challenges could delay that.

The bill is House Bill 213.

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Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 28

CO: Elk threaten natural state of RMNP area

Elk threaten natural state of RMNP area

By Ron Hellbusch

There is a much-needed debate underway as to how to control the excessive number of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. And not to be ignored, the inordinate number of elk immediately outside of the park in the town of Estes Park and its urban residential areas, the golf course and retail centers.

Somewhere between the late 1880s when the elk (and wolves incidentally) were all but eliminated by uncontrolled hunting, into 1914 when elk were introduced into the park, up to the early 1930s the elk population mushroomed in numbers exceeding 1,000 in and immediately surrounding the park.

Between 1944 and 1968 the Park employed sharpshooters to cull the numbers. That program ended in 1969. Since then we have seen the natural regulation policy, which is no active management of the elk herds. As a result the 1,000 plus elk roaming in and around the park, have damaged plants, shrubs, trees, grasses and other food sources and natural habitat vital to deer, small animals, a variety of bird species and beavers. In addition conditions now present a threat of soil erosion and streambed channel deterioration.

The National Park Service acknowledges the elk numbers have to be reduced. The debate is how. The Colorado Division of Wildlife, which has a sound track record for effective small and big game management strategies in Colorado, seeks to support the park service. The glitch is again, how? The NPS proposes to pay sharpshooters and supporting staff to take out 700 elk over 20 years and then continue a reduction of approximately 100 elk annually. This proposal has a price tag of more than $18 million over the 20 years.

To many in the wildlife management arena, spending millions to reduce the elk herd is difficult to comprehend when the DOW could institute a state controlled hunting program at minimum costs and actually generate revenue from special hunting program licenses.

The interesting element in both proposals is the fact the elk reduction has to be achieved by an elk kill process. To pay shooters, as the NPS proposes, does not seem warranted, or necessary when Colorado hunters with special program licenses would accomplish the same end result without the $18 million cost.

The NPS counters with the argument that public hunting is not allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park under federal statutes. To put that uncertainty aside, Colorado Congressman Mark Udall introduced legislation in February to resolve that issue and allow states to cooperate with the NPS.

The reduction program should also include a plan to reduce some number of elk outside the park boundary. This could take the form of taking elk by archery shooters to assure a safety factor in the more populated residential areas, golf course and retail centers. The park would have to be closed for a period of time, which would likely be agreed to by park users who would presumably have the same interest in balancing the elk numbers in the interest of the park environment.

There is hope the NPS and the DOW can find a common and cooperative ground in developing the park elk herd reduction. Thanks to Congressman Udall, Congresses support of his legislation will take the current federal prohibition off the table. The park deserves the best ecological environment possible with a stable balance of wildlife. Lets hope the agencies and public can agreed on moving ahead as soon as possible with the Colorado proposal.

Source

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Feb 28

WY: Wolf supporters show up in force

Wolf supporters show up in force

By KATHLEEN MILLER
Associated Press writer

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Opponents of removing wolves from the federal endangered species protection in Wyoming far outnumbered supporters of delisting wolves at a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public hearing on wolf management Tuesday.

“The Endangered Species Act has been hugely successful in restoring the gray wolf and we want it to stay that way,” Sierra Club regional spokesman Adam Rissien said at the hearing.

Wolf advocate Emily Swift read an essay she wrote about family vacations in Yellowstone Park before urging the panel to rethink delisting wolves.

“I believe this country should be thinking about future generations and I would like my children to be able to appreciate the wolves as I have,” Swift said.

The state and federal governments have been litigating over the issue of wolf management since the rejection of the state’s first wolf management plan in 2004. The situation has so far prevented removing wolves from federal protections in Wyoming and also in Montana and Idaho. Recently the federal government has begun steps to turn over management to the other states and says it’s prepared to continue to manage the animals in Wyoming alone if necessary.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed designation of the permanent wolf management area in Wyoming last fall. The proposal calls for the area to extend from Cody south to Meeteetse, around the western boundary of the Wind River Reservation down to Pinedale, west to the Alpine area and then back north to Yellowstone National Park.

Fremont County resident Darlene Vaughan said she thought she was one of the few people at the meeting who had personal experience with wolves on her property.

“It’s time to delist the Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the endangered species list,” she said. “It’s past time to delist them.

“I am concerned with the amount of private property that is within the line that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife has drawn on our state,” Vaughan said. “I think that people should have their constitutional right to defend their private property and that is what concerns me the most.”

Vaughan’s husband, Dave, said he believes the presence of four wolves on his property several years ago resulted in the loss of 20 percent of his herd that year, and ultimately drove his ranch out of business.

“How many business owners can afford to lose 20 percent of their income?” Vaughan said.

Ken Hamilton, a representative of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, agreed with Vaughan.

“Private property in the state of Wyoming should not be asked to sacrifice,” Hamilton said.

“I represent agricultural people throughout the state of Wyoming. These are the folks that have their livestock torn up by wolves. They aren’t compensated for that.”

Approximately 40 conservation group members who traveled from Boulder, Colo., and Fort Collins, Colo., to testify at the hearing made up a large percentage of those who spoke against the delisting of wolves.

“The restoration of the gray wolf in the northern Rockies has been an unparalleled success story,” Boulder resident and National Resources Defense Council representative Amy Mall said.

“Wolves are vital to the health of the region’s ecosystem and they benefit the region’s economy.”

Mall added that Wyoming often uses wolf imagery to attract tourists to the state.

“Wolves might be a national treasure but Wyoming has to live with this issue,” Bob Wharf of Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife said during a break in testimony. “Once wolves are delisted, it will be solely on our dime.”

Several hearing participants wished more residents from the western part of Wyoming had been at the meeting. They said that calving season and treacherous travel conditions had probably affected turnout.

Ed Bangs, a gray wolf recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said public comment on the wolf management issue will be accepted until May 9. He said the agency plans to hold a second public hearing in Cody at the end of March.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 28

WY: Senate: Let gov negotiate on wolves

Senate: Let gov negotiate on wolves

By BEN NEARY
Associated Press writer

CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Senate on Tuesday approved a wolf management plan that calls for giving the governor’s office authority to negotiate with the federal government over the boundaries of a permanent wolf area in the northwest corner of the state.

If the House agrees today with the Senate position, at least the boundary provisions of the state’s wolf management plan could meet with federal approval.

On Monday, the Senate had voted to exclude most private land from a permanent management area in which wolves would be managed as trophy game animals. Outside that area, they would be managed as predators that could be shot on sight.

Mitch King, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver, on Monday had said that any reduction of the management area his agency had proposed last fall would be unacceptable. He said a reduction would lead to his agency rejecting a state wolf management plan.

The proposal the federal government gave the state last fall calls for the wolf management area to extend from Cody south to Meeteetse, around the western boundary of the Wind River Indian Reservation, down to Pinedale, west to the Alpine area and then back north to Yellowstone National Park.

The Senate on Monday called for pushing the area’s eastern boundary to the west, to the existing national forest boundary.

After the Senate vote Tuesday, King said it was critical for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s office to have the latitude to negotiate a management plan that the federal agency can approve. He said he hadn’t read the bill the Senate had approved, but said that based on his understanding of it, it would satisfy his agency’s concerns over the boundary issue.

“I think we’re well on our way,” King said. He said the ultimate result depended on whether the House votes to agree with the Senate proposal.

Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, on Tuesday presented the compromise amendment on the management area boundary.

Scott called for leaving intact in the legislation a description of the boundary the Senate approved on Monday, as well as listing the original Fish and Wildlife Service proposal. He said the bill would give the governor authority to negotiate a management area boundary anywhere between those two, including possibly accepting the original federal proposal.

Scott said it makes sense to have wolves in the Yellowstone area, where they help to control deer and elk in an area where hunting isn’t allowed. He said they also serve as a tourist attraction.

The federal government in 2004 rejected Wyoming’s original wolf management plan. Federal officials are moving to take wolves off the federal list of threatened and endangered species in Idaho and Montana. They say they’re prepared to leave federal protection in place in Wyoming if the state can’t come up with an acceptable wolf management plan.

A meeting to gather public comment on the federal effort to remove wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act was held Tuesday night in Cheyenne.

State officials say legislative approval of the new wolf management plan could prove critical in state efforts to try to negotiate an end to litigation with the federal government.

State officials also say they believe that wolves are killing an unacceptable amount of elk and other wildlife in some areas of northwest Wyoming. Unless the lawsuit over wolf management is resolved, state officials say they fear there will be a period of perhaps several years between when the federal government formally removes wolves from Endangered Species Act protection and when litigation over that action wraps up.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, is chairman of the Senate committee that considers wildlife issues. He said settling the lawsuit with the federal government could prevent more litigation and speed up the time when the state can take over wolf management.

The plan the Senate endorsed contains language specifying that it would remain in effect only until next February unless the litigation is resolved and the state takes over management of wolves.

The Senate accepted an amendment proposed by Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, that would authorize the Game and Fish Department to undertake “aggressive management” of wolves to protect domestic animals in addition to livestock. The bill would allow the state to use aerial hunting and other methods to kill wolves to protect private property.

Burns said he agreed with Perkins’ proposal.

“If the wolves are hauling off my dog, I don’t have time to call Game and Fish, I’m just going to shoot,” Burns said. “And if a wolf is hauling off my dog, or anybody else’s dog here, you’re not going to hesitate. You’re just going to do what you have to do.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 28

CO: Gray wolf’s endangered listing gets fresh look

Gray wolf’s endangered listing gets fresh look

By Valerie Richardson
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

DENVER — The Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday started a series of hearings on whether to remove the Canadian gray wolf from the endangered species list, a proposal embraced by ranchers and decried by wildlife groups.

The agency proposed the delisting last month after announcing that a wolf-recovery plan had surpassed all expectations. Reintroduced to the Northern Rockies in 1995, the wolves now number more than 1,200 in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The proposal was a relief to ranching and farming communities, where wolves have proved bad for business by preying on sheep, calves and other livestock. Wolf packs have attacked hunting and ranching dogs, prompting calls to loosen restrictions on shooting the predators.

“The wolf population has gotten so numerous that they’re starting to spend time on private land, and they’re killing more livestock,” said John Thompson, spokesman for the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.

The recovery program has been especially successful in Idaho, home to more than 700 of the reintroduced wolves. Under the proposed delisting, the wolves would lose their protected status, and federal wildlife agencies would turn over control of their management to the states.

The delisting also would allow the states to approve “lethal control” of the wolf population. Under current rules, a wolf cannot be shot without proof that it attacked ranch animals.

Recovery advocates fear that placing the states in charge of the wolf populations could result in a wholesale slaughter. All three states were hostile to the reintroduction, and Idaho and Wyoming have submitted management plans that wildlife groups describe as pro-hunter and anti-wolf.

They point to Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, who created a stir when he said, “I’m going to bid for the first ticket to shoot a wolf.”

Wyoming officials took the Fish and Wildlife Service to court after the agency rejected the state’s original management plan. The Wyoming Legislature is attempting to broker a compromise agreement this week before going out of session Friday.

“[The states] have given us reason not to trust them,” said Amaroq Weiss, director of Western species conservation for Defenders of Wildlife. “What’s the point of spending all this time and money on re-establishing the wolf population, only to cut their numbers by 80 percent?”

The federal delisting proposal also includes the 4,000 wolves in the Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Most wildlife groups support that delisting, pointing to greater protections offered by those states.

“In the Great Lakes, the states have developed well-balanced wolf management plans,” Miss Weiss said. “None of their politicians is calling for a drastic reduction in the wolf population, as you see in the Northern Rockies.”

Mr. Otter’s spokesman Mark Warbis said Idaho’s plan is aimed at maintaining a balance between the wolf population and the state’s livestock and wild game herds. Any wolf hunting would be done by sportsmen, not professionals, and hunters would have to obtain a state license and a tag for every wolf they hoped to kill.

The Fish and Wildlife Service plans to hold six hearings on the delisting proposal throughout the Rocky Mountain West. The comment period runs through May 9.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 27

NM: Removal order issued for wolf in southwestern New Mexico

Removal order issued for wolf in southwestern New Mexico

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued an order to permanently remove a Mexican gray wolf from the Arizona-New Mexico border because the animal was involved in killing three cows.

The Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project’s interagency field team will make every effort to capture the wolf, labeled male 1007, said Victoria Fox, spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife’s Southwest Region office.

However, if the team cannot capture the animal, he will be shot, she said.

Since last March 20, male 1007, a member of the Saddle Pack, has been involved in three confirmed livestock depredation incidents in New Mexico. The removal order applies only to male 1007 and not to other wolves in the pack.

Federal biologists began releasing wolves on the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1998 to re-establish the species in part of its historic range after it had been hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s.

The program encompasses 4.4 million acres of the Gila and Apache Sitgreaves national forests and the 1.6 million-acre White Mountain Apache reservation.

Project officials estimated there were 59 wolves in the wild at the end of 2006. Fox said a field team counted 49 wolves and expressed confidence from various signs that at least 10 others existed.

Earlier this month, a member of the interagency field team shot and killed another endangered Mexican gray wolf that apparently killed three calves in southwestern New Mexico. That 6-year-old wolf belonged to the San Mateo Pack.

Wildlife managers in November killed a male wolf after it also had been involved in three confirmed livestock kills. The reintroduction team shot four other wolves last year for killing cattle and three in previous years.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity in Pinos Altos called the latest removal order “disturbing.”

Because of the wolves being killed, he said the program is “a control program masquerading as a recovery program.”

The program was expected to have 100 wolves and 18 breeding pairs in the wild by the end of 2006. Instead, Robinson said, it has 58 animals and five breeding pairs.

He suggested what conservationists have said in the past – a policy requiring ranchers who graze livestock on public land to dispose of carcasses to reduce the likelihood that wolves will become used to feeding on livestock.

A field team member investigates every livestock kill, using such techniques as studying bite marks and looking for tracks and scat, to determine if a wolf was involved. The field team member can confirm a wolf’s involvement or rule it probable or possible.

The Mexican gray wolves are designated as a “nonessential, experimental population.” That allows the recovery team greater flexibility in managing the wolves under the Endangered Species Act and allows permanent removal – by capturing or killing a wolf – after three confirmed livestock deaths.

Captured wolves under such removal orders cannot be re-released in Arizona or New Mexico.

The Center for Biological Diversity in December sued the Fish and Wildlife Service, trying to force it to expand the program.

The center, which has offices in both states, alleged in its lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., that the agency has refused to implement recommendations of a scientific panel that reviewed the program.

The lawsuit seeks to force Fish and Wildlife to expand the area where wolves are allowed and to allow them to be released directly onto the Gila National Forest of southwestern New Mexico. Currently, wolves initially are released only in Arizona.

The lawsuit said successful wolf recovery programs in the northern Rockies and the Great Lakes are not saddled with “such devastating and politically motivated limits.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 27

WY: Senate changes wolf bill, defies feds

Senate changes wolf bill, defies feds

Amendment, passed 16-13, excludes land from managed area

By The Associated Press

CHEYENNE – The state Senate voted Monday to reject the federal government’s proposed boundary for a permanent wolf management area in the northwestern corner of Wyoming.

By a vote of 16-13, the Senate amended a wolf management bill to exclude most private land from a permanent management area in which wolves would be managed as trophy game animals. Outside that area, they would be managed as predators that could be shot on sight.

Mitch King, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver, said Monday that his agency has explained repeatedly to state officials that the original management area must be included in any state wolf management plan or his agency will reject it.

“We’ve talked about private lands with the state time and time again,” King said in a telephone interview after the Senate vote. “All the key legislators that I’ve been talking about plus the Governor’s Office know that’s unacceptable to the Fish and Wildlife Service, and that shouldn’t be anything new to them.”

State officials, including Gov. Dave Freudenthal, say they want the Legislature to adopt a new wolf management plan this session. They say doing so will allow the state to bargain with the federal government over removing wolves from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act and turning wolf management over to the state.

The state and federal governments have been litigating the issue of wolf management since the rejection of the state’s first wolf management plan in 2004. The situation has so far prevented removing wolves from federal protections in Wyoming and also in Montana and Idaho. Recently, the federal government has begun steps to turn over management to the other states and says it’s prepared to continue to manage the animals in Wyoming alone if necessary.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed designation of the permanent wolf management area in Wyoming last fall. The proposal calls for the area to extend from Cody south to Meeteetse, around the western boundary of the Wind River Reservation down to Pinedale, west to the Alpine area and then back north to Yellowstone National Park.

The Senate amended the bill to push the eastern boundary of the permanent management area several miles west, to the national forest boundary, to exclude a wide swath of private land. The Senate boundary would also exclude roughly the northern half of the Wind River Range.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan and chairman of the Senate Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee, said he intends to ask the Senate to accept the original federal boundary when it considers the bill again today.

“Nobody in this body (the Senate) wanted the wolves here, nobody wants them to stay protected,” Burns said. However, he said the question is the best and quickest way to get the federal government to accept a state management plan.

The bill contains provisions that specify that any new state wolf management plan would expire by the end of next February unless the Fish and Wildlife Service removes wolves from federal protection and turns management authority over to the state by then.

Sen. Pat Aullman, R-Thayne, and Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, proposed the amendment to reduce the size of the area. Aullman said it would protect landowners and ranchers on private land who are most affected by wolves.

“I think we as legislators need to realize what we’re dealing with and protect these ranchers who are out there,” Aullman said.

After the Senate adopted the amendment, Burns said he believed the action gutted the bill.

Wyoming Game and Fish Director Terry Cleveland said the Fish and Wildlife Service has said reducing the size of the management area in which wolves are protected might not allow the state to maintain the minimum number of wolves the federal government says are required to avoid continued Endangered Species Act protection.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has said that once the state takes over wolf management, the state must maintain at least seven breeding pairs of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and eight breeding pairs outside the park boundary. A breeding pair is classified as a male and female with at least two young.

As of the beginning of the year, Cleveland said federal officials reported there were 136 wolves in Yellowstone and 175 wolves outside the park. He has said increases in the wolf population may soon require reductions in sport hunting in certain areas of the state.

The proposed wolf management bill would authorize the state to undertake aggressive management of wolves, including aerial hunting and hazing of them to protect livestock and other private property from the animals.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 27

WY: Shocker:
Wolves Not Slaughtering Elk

Shocker:
Wolves Not Slaughtering Elk

By Jim Stanford, Guest Writer

Apparently, elk are getting along just fine despite the presence of wolves in northwest Wyoming. Wildlife managers recently counted 11,790 elk in the Jackson herd, 60 fewer than last year. In addition, the ratio of 25 calves per 100 cows is just about on par with the historical average.

The Jackson herd is Wyomings largest and lives in close proximity to a multitude of wolf packs in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and the Teton and Gros Ventre wilderness areas.

Will these latest scientific figures stop state lawmakers and the governor from claiming that wolves are savaging wildlife? Probably not. But at least we know claims that the National Elk Refuge has been starving elk are pure fiction.

State legislators and Gov. Dave Freudenthal have been seeking draconian measures, including a state-financed aerial gunning program, to control wolves once the species is taken off the endangered list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has initiated the delisting process but has rejected Wyomings management plan because it could put the species back on the brink of extinction.

The survey of the Jackson elk population included only elk counted on or near feed grounds. Wyoming Game and Fish Department estimates there are another 1,000 or so animals in the surrounding areas, bringing the total population to nearly 13,000  about 2,000 above the objective set by Game and Fish.

Gray wolf by Gary Kramer, USFWS Mark Gocke, spokesman for the state agency, said crews counting elk observed five wolf packs in Jackson Hole, including several in the Gros Ventres and one near Moran. Wolf activity also has been observed at the base of the central Teton peaks.

The pro-hunting group Sportsmen for [Killing] Fish and Wildlife claimed last year that managers of the National Elk Refuge intentionally were starving elk. That prompted the group to organize a Hay Day rally in which its supporters brought more than 60 tons of donated hay to the refuge in December.

Sportsmen for [Killing] Fish and Wildlife has joined politicians like Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody, and Freudenthal in claiming that wolves are savaging the states wildlife, particularly elk.

They have argued that the state must be allowed to kill wolves to keep them from killing elk, whose populations are propped up artificially high by state-run feed grounds. That way hunters can kill the elk, and the state takes in more money in license fees.

Sadly, the media continues to echo these rants, without any fact-checking to dispel the myth that elk populations are being decimated by wolves.

Heres an excerpt from an AP story that ran in yesterdays JH Daily:

The state says the existing rule makes it extremely difficult for Wyoming to kill wolves that are killing too many of the states wildlife. State officials say wolf depredation by growing packs could soon result in reducing elk hunting opportunities in areas of northwestern Wyoming.

Its not just for Wyoming, its created a huge problem in Idaho and its created a huge problem in Montana, Freudenthal said of the federal governments current restrictions on allowing states to kill wolves.

The author first published this story on JH Underground.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 27

WY: Wolf hearings begin tonight

Wolf hearings begin tonight

By WHITNEY ROYSTER
Star-Tribune environmental reporter

JACKSON — People who want a say in the federal government’s proposal to remove wolves from Endangered Species Act protection will have their first chance tonight in Cheyenne, where the first in a series of hearings is held.

At issue will likely be whether there are enough safeguards in place to protect wolves from becoming endangered again, and whether there are enough allowances in place to protect livestock and big game herds throughout the region.

Of particular interest in Wyoming may be where the new “line” dividing the areas where wolves would be considered trophy game versus predators is drawn. With trophy game management, killing of wolves would be regulated; with predator status, wolves could be killed any time for any reason.

In a 2003 proposal floated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the trophy game area included lands south of Jackson, to the Snake River Canyon and to the Idaho border near the Palisades Reservoir. Under a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal offered to the state during the last three months, that line goes from Pinedale, along Highway 189/191 to Hoback Junction, north to Jackson, and west along Highway 22 to the Idaho border.

That eliminates from trophy game country land south of Wilson to Alpine, in the Snake River Range.

Rep. Monte Olsen, R-Daniel, said he would prefer the trophy game area extend to the areas included in the Game and Fish proposal in 2003 — a portion of his district.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said he was surprised the area from Teton Pass to the Snake River Canyon was not included in trophy game status area, but thought it was “appropriate” given there are no wilderness areas there.

Magagna said there are currently no wolf packs in the area.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the lower 48 states for the Fish and Wildlife Service, agreed there are no wolf packs in that area now or since reintroduction.

“In theory, wolves could live there, but they just haven’t,” Bangs said. Therefore, when Fish and Wildlife developed its Federal Register notice to remove wolves from federal protection, it said that area — and indeed most of Wyoming — is not considered a “significant portion of the range” and is not critical to maintaining wolf populations.

Franz Camenzind, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, said he would prefer wolves remain as trophy game statewide, but said the “minimum area” should include the area to the Snake River Canyon, the Wyoming Range and the Wind River Range.

Rep. Pete Jorgensen, D-Jackson, said in an e-mail the boundary change in Teton County “smells political to me.”

He also said that apart from the boundary change, “I don’t understand how the state can take a position that wolves eating elk is not a part of the natural system and will ultimately self regulate.”

“I understand the need to give livestock producers protection for their herds where conflict occurs and assume that both Montana and Idaho were satisfied with the Fish and Wildlife regulations when they agreed” to state management plans, he said.

Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, said he has no preference where the “line” between predator and trophy game is drawn. Still, he said he thinks the line was drawn through Wilson to keep two elk feedgrounds — South Park and Dog Creek — outside the trophy game area.

Gingery said if the trophy game status is working as it should, the state would have an opportunity to kill wolves if they were hurting elk on those feedgrounds — regardless of the classification placed on the land where they’re located.

What’s the incentive?

At this point, the federal government is proceeding with wolf delisting in Idaho and Montana without what it sees as an acceptable post-delisting wolf management plan in Wyoming. Even if the Wyoming Legislature doesn’t change its plan to comply with federal demands, the Interior Department plan calls for wolves in most of Wyoming outside the northwest part of the state to be delisted with the rest of the population in the Northern Rockies. The federal government would still manage wolves in the northwest corner of the state.

That is likely to be an issue of contention at public hearings, as previously the federal government did not agree wolves could be managed as predators throughout Wyoming. Federal managers previously said that did not do enough to ensure wolves would not become endangered again — a key component for delisting.

Even with such a small portion of Wyoming in limbo to remain under federal control, officials say there is an incentive for delisting.

Bangs said the incentive for the state is to allow it to manage wolves to protect big game, and to allow ranchers more liberal killing of wolves near livestock. Currently ranchers can only kill wolves actively attacking livestock and have to receive special permits to kill wolves seen regularly in the area.

Magagna said the incentive is to manage wolf predation on wildlife in northwest Wyoming. Although an amendment added to the Senate bill by Gov. Dave Freudenthal allows for wolves to be killed if they are affecting big game provided there are 17 breeding packs in the northwest corner, Magagna said the northwest area is becoming “saturated” and elk calf survival may remain low.

“I would surmise over time you’d see a decline in those wildlife populations in part just due to aging and population and lack of recruitment (of) a younger herd,” he said.

Bangs said wolves have the biggest impact on adult cow elk, while bears kill about five times more calves than wolves do in the Yellowstone area.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 27

WY: Senate trims wolf management area

Senate trims wolf management area

By BEN NEARY
Associated Press writer

CHEYENNE — The state Senate voted Monday to reject the federal government’s proposed boundary for a permanent wolf management area in the northwest corner of Wyoming.

By a vote of 16-13, the Senate amended a wolf management bill to exclude most private land from a permanent management area in which wolves would be managed as trophy game animals. Outside that area, they would be managed as predators that could be shot on sight.

Mitch King, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver, said Monday that his agency has explained repeatedly to state officials that the original management area must be included in any state wolf management plan or his agency will reject it.

“We’ve talked about private lands with the state time and time again,” King said in a telephone interview after the Senate vote. “All the key legislators that I’ve been talking about plus the governor’s office know that’s unacceptable to the Fish and Wildlife Service, and that shouldn’t be anything new to them.”

State officials, including Gov. Dave Freudenthal, say they want the Legislature to adopt a new wolf management plan this session. They say doing so will allow the state to bargain with the federal government over removing wolves from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act and turning wolf management over to the state.

The state and federal governments have been litigating over the issue of wolf management since the rejection of the state’s first wolf management plan in 2004. The situation has so far prevented removing wolves from federal protection in Wyoming and also in Montana and Idaho. Recently, the federal government has begun steps to turn over management to the other states and says it’s prepared to continue to manage the animals in Wyoming alone if necessary.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed designation of the permanent wolf management area in Wyoming last fall. The proposal calls for the area to extend from Cody south to Meeteetse, around the western boundary of the Wind River Indian Reservation down to Pinedale, west to the Alpine area and then back north to Yellowstone National Park.

The Senate amended the bill to push the eastern boundary of the permanent management area several miles west, to the national forest boundary, to exclude a wide swath of private land. The Senate boundary would also exclude roughly the northern half of the Wind River Range.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan and chairman of the Senate Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee, said he intends to ask the Senate to accept the original federal boundary when it considers the bill again today.

“Nobody in this body (the Senate) wanted the wolves here, nobody wants them to stay protected,” Burns said. However, he said the question is the best and quickest way to get the federal government to accept a state management plan.

The bill contains provisions that specify that any new state wolf management plan would expire by the end of next February unless the Fish and Wildlife Service removes wolves from federal protection and turns management authority over to the state by then.

Sen. Pat Aullman, R-Thayne, and Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, proposed the amendment to reduce the size of the area. Aullman said it would protect landowners and ranchers on private land who are most impacted by wolves.

“I think we as legislators need to realize what we’re dealing with and protect these ranchers who are out there,” Aullman said.

After the Senate adopted the amendment, Burns said he believed the action gutted the bill.

Wyoming Game and Fish Director Terry Cleveland said the Fish and Wildlife Service has said reducing the size of the management area in which wolves are protected might not allow the state to maintain the minimum number of wolves the federal government says are required to avoid continued Endangered Species Act protection.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has said that once the state takes over wolf management, the state must maintain at least seven breeding pairs of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and eight breeding pairs outside the park boundary. A breeding pair is classified as a male and female with at least two young.

As of the beginning of the year, Cleveland said, federal officials reported there were 136 wolves in Yellowstone and 175 wolves outside the park. He has said that increases in the wolf population may soon require reductions in sport hunting in certain areas of the state.

The proposed wolf management bill would authorize the state to undertake aggressive management of wolves, including aerial hunting and hazing of them to protect livestock and other private property from the animals.

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