WY: Wolf comment period reopens

By Mark Wilcox

May 1, 2012 –

From today until May 16, Wyomingites will have perhaps a final chance to voice their opinion through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves in the state.

According to a release, the service is reopening the comment period for the proposal to “allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule.” Those who have already submitted their comments need not resubmit, as those comments have already been incorporated into the public record.

For years ranchers, hunters and other opponents have had a bone to pick with environmentalists, state agencies and federal entities about the listing and reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone. Many argue that the reintroduction tipped the balance on a food chain rebalanced by hunting and other herd management outside of Yellowstone’s park boundaries. And many ranchers argue their own herds are being culled by the reintroduced species.

For that reason, the state management plan allows for indiscriminate killing of wolves in “permanent predator areas” which blanket the state except the northwest corner, largely comprised of Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

“We believe few of the wolf packs in predator portions of Wyoming would persist to the end of 2012,” the proposal states, “although some individuals from these packs could survive as lone animals. Similarly, some of the current lone wolves in the predator area would be killed.”

Seeking to strike a balance between the opposing sides, Wyoming has drafted various plans to change the status of wolves. The current proposal would allow hunters in the management area to kill 52 wolves as trophy game animals next fall as the endangered status is lifted. The management area immediately surrounds Yellowstone and Grand Teton as far south as Alpine and as far east as Greybull. Management area kills, factored in with management removals, vehicle collisions and poaching would bring an estimated total of 98 dead wolves. Currently Wyoming has a population of approximately 270 wolves, including 19 breeding pairs.

Gov. Matt Mead recently reported at a press conference that the plan was based on “sound science,” but the comment period will be reopened because of concerns addressed by one of five plan reviewers.

“Part of the reason we’re cautious is it’s not instantaneous reporting,” Mead said, referring to the fact that more than 52 licenses will be issued but the season closes when 52 wolves are taken.

Opponents point out hunters have 72 hours to report a kill, meaning more could be taken in the interim.

“This must be reduced to a maximum of 36 hours because any investigator knows that time passage makes investigations much more difficult,” the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance argues on its website. “In today’s world communications are fast and almost ubiquitous.”

In Jackson, officials recently euthanized one white wolf when it strayed too close to a residential area near several schools, fueling the fire for many to support the efforts to reduce the population.

If the proposal is finalized after the public comment window, the species status as a nonessential experimental population designation (earned when reintroduced) would be removed and future management for this species would be turned over to the appropriate state, tribal or federal wildlife managers.

“Wyoming’s recent approval of a revised state law, regulations and management plan amendment are important milestones in our cooperative effort to return management of this iconic species to the states,” said Steve Guertin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional director of the Mountain-Prairie region. “These documents demonstrate a strong commitment to maintain the Wyoming wolf population well above minimal recovery levels after delisting. Responsible state management will ensure that this remarkable conservation success endures for future generations.”

The documents and more information can be found athttp://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf

Written comments regarding the proposal may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov. In the enter keyword or ID box, enter FWS—R6—ES—2011—0039, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the search panel at the top of the screen, under the document type heading, check the box next to proposed rules to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Submit a Comment.”

Hard-copy comments may also be submitted by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:
Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS—R6—ES—2011—0039; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042—PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

Comments must be received on or before May 16, 2012. The service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process.

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