Regional Method of Delisting Criticized
Wildlife leaders: Abandon ‘national rule’ in wolf plan
BILLINGS (AP) — Wildlife managers from five Western states are urging the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to scrap rules they fear will delay
removing the wolf as a protected species in states where reintroduction
efforts have flourished.
Tying the success of wolf recovery efforts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming
to their recovery in a larger nine-state Western region only promises to
create a “huge political and judicial fight that will tie us in knots for
years,’ said Chris Smith, chief of staff for Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and
The director of Montana’s agency, along with directors of wildlife
in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, sent a letter to the Fish and
Wildlife Service last week, asking the agency to reconsider its guidelines
concerning the delisting of wolves in the west.
Ed Bangs, the FWS wolf recovery coordinator for the northern Rocky
said Tuesday the agency is aware of the state agency concerns.
“The bottom line is we certainly want to work in a close partnership with
all the states, and I think we’ve done a good job of that so far,’ he
said. “They are worried that the plan we have now will lead to lawsuits
that delay the delisting of the wolf.’
At issue are rules the FWS adopted for determining when the population of
gray wolves — protected under the Endangered Species Act — is high
enough in certain areas to be removed from endangered status.
The agency divided wolf populations into districts. The western district
includes Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and
portions of Arizona and New Mexico.
Under current rules, once the FWS determines there are 30 or more breeding
pairs of wolves for three consecutive years in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming
— where reintroduction efforts have focused — the agency can move to
delist the animals in all nine states.
State wildlife agency directors fear that will only lead to lawsuits by
environmental groups in the other states with in the district, where
wolves still may not exist naturally.
“If there are questions raised about whether having wolves in Wyoming,
Idaho and Montana is sufficient to declare them delisted across (the
West), there’s an absolute certainty there will be litigation,’ Smith
John Baughman, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said the
letter is part of a legal strategy to ensure the wolves in Montana, Idaho
and Wyoming are taken off the Endangered Species List as quickly as
“Our feeling is, why take the risk of tying things up in court by
broadening the potential areas that might be litigated?’ Baughman said.
“Virtually anyone can file a one- or two-page lawsuit and tie things up.’
The five state wildlife agency directors asked that delisting of the
wolves for Montana, Idaho and Wyoming be considered on its own.
“Devising a strategy that leads to delisting in this region should be our
highest priority because it will both reward success and provide us with a
framework for moving forward in other parts of the country,’ the
directors said in their letter.
Wild idea threatens wolves
Billings Gazette Editorial
The Druid Peak wolf pack is a herd. Twenty-seven adults or yearlings and
11 pups born last spring. On a cold, cloudy day, a group of dedicated wolf
watchers huddles against the wind on a steep hill overlooking Yellowstone
Park’s Lamar Valley. From their vantage point, they survey dozens of
wolves with spotting scopes and radio tracking devices. Visitors passing
by at the right time can hear the Druid Peak wolves howling and yipping.
They swarm over the snow, groups of wolves running at each other and
running back again. Predators at play. They aren’t hunting; they don’t
have to wonder where the next meal is coming from. Elk graze within
Among the 3 million people who will visit Yellowstone this year, many will
be drawn by the desire to see wolves or, at least, see wolf country.
Outgrowing the park
But outside the park in Montana, wolves have moved into Paradise Valley
and south of Red Lodge. Roaming wolves have killed sheep, llamas and
calves. Not a good neighbor policy.
Furthermore, when an endangered species member develops a taste for
domestic animals, the solution is drawn out and expensive. Last week,
federal authorities hazed a pack of 10 central Idaho wolves with lights,
sirens and helicopters, trying to shoo them away from cattle. Undeterred,
the wolves ate beef again. Then wildlife managers shot them.
Seeing wolves in Yellowstone is awesome, but the population (216 at year’s
end) is outgrowing the park. It’s time to move on to the next chapter of
the wolf saga: taking the wolf off the endangered species list and
managing to maintain a wolf population in federal wildlands while
protecting the property and peace of mind of area ranchers.
That’s why state wildlife managers from Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado
and New Mexico wrote a letter last week to the head of the U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service. They proposed “a regional approach” to wolf recovery,
instead of a “national rule.”
“It is clear recovery targets will soon be met in the northern Rockies,”
the state managers wrote. “Devising a strategy that leads to delisting in
this region should be our highest priority because it will both reward
success and provide us with a framework for moving forward in other parts
of the country.”
Leading wolf conservationists agreed that the northern Rockies should be
kept separate from the rest of the West. “One lesson we’ve learned is that
the bigger the target, the harder it is to achieve what you intended,” Tom
France of the National Wildlife Federation told a Gazette reporter.
Mike Phillips of the Turner Endangered Species Fund has said that
considering the southern and northern Rockies wolf recovery separately is “defensible
and strongly supported by relevant biological and legal standards …”
There are many difficult disputes ahead in managing 21st century wolves.
But first, we must make certain that the rules reflect regional
differences. All too often, federal edicts are a one-size-must-fit-all
approach. In wolf management, there’s a great need and opportunity to
tailor policy to our region. The national rule is a bad idea that must be