The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that Endangered Species Act protection for Wyoming gray wolves will end, to be replaced by a state management plan Sept. 30.
"The return of the wolf to the Northern Rocky Mountains is a major success story, and reflects the remarkable work of states, tribes and our many partners to bring this iconic species back from the brink of extinction," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "The wolf population has remained healthy under state management in Idaho and Montana and we're confident that the Wyoming population will sustain its recovery under the management plan Wyoming will implement."
The department said wolf populations have exceeded recovery goals for 10 years with a Rocky Mountain population of nearly 1,800 wolves and 109 breeding pairs.
A new rule implemented today by the service requires Wyoming to maintain at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 individual wolves outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. The rule is consistent with plans already developed by the state to maintain a buffer of 150 wolves with 15 breeding pairs. The state delegation and Gov. Matt Mead have all expressed how pleased they are with the change.
"The wolf population in Wyoming is recovered," Mead said, "and it is appropriate that the responsibility for wolf management be returned to the state."
According to the governor's office, Wyoming's wolf management plan was reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and by independent wolf scientists twice.
"I have every expectation that Wyoming will do an excellent job managing wolves and the species will not be relisted," Mead said.
Sen. John Barrasso was similarly pleased to see control shift from Washington back to the state, while Rep. Cynthia Lummis said she was relieved the service finally lived up to its promises to delist.
"The federal government forced wolves on us in the 1990s," said Sen. Mike Enzi, adding two state plans have been rejected before now.
"Wyoming game managers will do their part to maintain the agreed-upon wolf numbers outside the park," Enzi said. "Unfortunately, I'm sure there will still be some wolf advocates who will react the only way they seem to know how to react: they'll sue."
One advocate voicing an early reaction didn't go quite so far.
"We are deeply disappointed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's flawed decision on the delisting of Wyoming's wolves — a decision that shows blatant disregard for public comments — including thousands of Greater Yellowstone Coalition members and supporters that offered practical solutions to improve the plan," said Mike Clark, executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, adding that a shoot-on-sight policy for 80 percent of the state is hardly sound science. "GYC will continue working to improve wolf management in Wyoming and is committed to ensuring that a healthy and viable population of wolves remains in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem."
For more Daily news click here and look under 'Breaking News'