Wyoming and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hold "landmark meeting" on Wyoming wolf plan

Huge reduction in wolves could be the outcome of proposal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service met Monday with Governor Dave Freudental and Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming and others in Cheyenne, to discuss the details of a new plan that would give Wyoming management of all wolves in the state outside of the national parks. The plan would dramatically reduce wolf protection and is expected to lead to the direct killing of many packs of wolves.

Leading the discussion for the federal government was U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall, not Ed Bangs, the Northern Rockies wolf coordinator. Hall, who is the new head of the Service, was widely criticized when he was regional director of the Service in the Southwest for his antagonism toward wolves and ordering biologists his region to avoid using genetic analysis when making decisions about species. Conservation organizations who opposed his nomination said that he had politicized science in the Southwest, a common complaint about the Bush Administration

Story by Jared Miller. Casper Star Tribune.

At the present there are 23 groups of wolves in Wyoming outside Yellowstone Park. Wyoming, and folks in Wyoming would be allowed to reduce this to just seven packs, and they could kill all of the wolves outside of some yet-to-be revealed boundary line in NW Wyoming. Approval of the plan would probably lead to direct aerial gunning down of wolves by the government. This would be relatively easy because, unlike the big wipeout of wolves a hundred years ago, now most packs have at least one radio collar.

To accommodate this, Wyoming legislature still needs to amend their proposed state wolf plan and talks may yet break down. Wyoming’s wolf plan had been rejected by the Service several years ago for its failure to protect wolf recovery. Since then Wyoming has sued several times.

Some folks on this blog have suggested the Ed Bangs was behind this sudden change toward killing off wolves, but the presence of Hall indicates a decision at a higher level. I think a much higher level. This may be a “friendly” settlement of the lawsuit. That means the government backs off of its ability to prevail over Wyoming in the current lawsuit because it no longer believes in recovering wolves. This is what they did with the original lawsuit over the Park Service banning snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park. The Park Service could have easily prevailed, but the new Bush Administration said, “let’s settle out of court.”

Approval of a Wyoming statw wolf plan, would also pave the way for Idaho to reduce its strong wolf population. Many expect the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to eventually put forward a plan to reduce the current 650 wolves to around 150 wolves or 15 packs. Many expect those allowed to remain would reside mostly in the state’s wilderness areas, dramatically reducing opportunities for people to see the wolves (and for the state of protect those that remain).

The article indicates Wyoming expects to be paid to “manage” the wolves, and negotiations may yet break down over that, plus negotiations to further reduce area where wolves will shot on sight.

If this plan is adoptioned, it will be a rapid retreat from recovery. The government’s direction will become maintenance of token populations of wolves outside of Yellowstone and probably Montana, a state has a much more contemporary wolf management plan than Idaho. Because the Endangered Species Act requires recovery, not token populations, what is likely to be proposed may be illegal.




  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    It has been my opinion that this goes even above Dale Hall to Kempthorne and Freudenthal. In any case, the outcome of this latest imbroglio depends upon how aggressive conservationists are in working against the proposalt.

    The comments of Earthjustice’s Abigail Dillon in the above story do not appear to reflect a willingess at Earthjustice to be aggressive in this matter, even though Earthjustice has intervened in the Wyoming lawsuit against the feds, representing various conservation groups.

    I recall that Earthjustice failed to challenge the settlement between Wyoming and the feds over vaccinating elk on the National Elk Refuge some years back, even though Earthjustice’s clients had been granted formal intervenor status in Wyoming’s lawsuit against the Refuge over vaccination. The State lost that lawsui in federal district court and at the 10th Circuitt, but after Bush II entered office, a deal was worked out between Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer and Tom Sansonetti with the U. S. Department of Justice. Sansonetti is a Republican hack lawyer from Cheyenne appointed to USDOJ.

    The deal did considerable damage to the National Elk Refuge and the national wildlife refuge system by giving a state more authority to dictate wildlife management on the Refuge, in this case, for the benefit of the livestock industry, which is behind Wyoming’s mismanagement of elk throughout western Wyoming.

    So the question is, just how much courage has Earthjustice got?

    Given the level of involvement of Earth Justice in the past on the part of wolves (too much, IMO, at the outset), they might not want to get burned again, but I think it is more likely they will get involved. This is early. I just blew the whistle quickly because I think I can see these things faster than most. 😉


  2. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    Kempthorne was suppose to recuse himself from wolf management decisions. 😉 I doubt Defenders of Wildlife and other groups would let this go unchallenged.

  3. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    I think that the Earthjustice involvement will depend on how much other groups, ie, Defenders, push them. And remember, nothing can be done until FWS and Wyoming sign on the dotted line. Then action can proceed. I think tat this is going to be a particularly nasty battle. Who knows where it will go.

  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Actually, the legal challenge to delisting will have to wait until a record of decision. My concern here is that Earthjustice and its conservation group clients have intervened in the ongoing lawsuit on the side of the FWS but have been excludedm, it appears, from the settlement discussions, which apparently have been going on for a month and a half. If intervention means anything, then intervenors must be party to settlement discussions.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This Administration has shown plenty of contempt for the law, and not just on this issue. That is awful, but it is also good in a way, because the courts then very often reject their proposals and actions as illegal.

    I see where Wyoming is already predicting a lawsuit from “Easterners.” Will they be able to sell this fantasy to the media? It will probably be up to bloggers and the many folks in the West who support wolf recovery to knock this down.

    Ralph Maughan
    Pocatello, ID (and yes my family has been in the West since the late 1840s)

  6. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    According to breaking news on the Idaho Statesman web site the Wyoming thing is a done deal and wolves will be delisted in January.


  7. Todd Ringler Avatar
    Todd Ringler

    I have to think that Ed Bangs is feeling sold out here. He has stayed around for a couple of years now to see this through. In my view, he has been a fair broker here — I just can’t imagine he will feel good about this. On the flip side, I guess he can retire now.

    Todd Ringler

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Maybe when he retires he will have plenty to say. Wolf managers who have retired certainly do.

  9. Stewart Rosenkrantz Avatar
    Stewart Rosenkrantz

    We should not be giving states the right to kill wolves.

  10. Cathy Hall Avatar

    I must say that I do not understand the reasoning behind killing the wolves anywhere. In the United States, there are millions of acres of national parks. I don’t understand why the wolves can’t be relocated throughout the U. S. and that would help resolve the issue. Sure, I know that wolves will kill livestock if the nature game they prey on is slim. Deer, Elk and other such animals are plentiful throughout the northwest. If the wolves aren’t forced to remain in areas where there aren’t prey, yes, then they might kill livestock in order to survive. If the government would allow the wolves to migrate with the herds of wild deer, etc., then there shouldn’t be a huge problem. I have studied wolves for years and I think as a family unit, we humans could learn a lot from them, the wolves. Have we become such a shallow minded nation that we are ready to kill on sight? If we keep letting our government do as they please with our wildlife, etc., then what will our granchildren have to look forward to? If we keep going at the rate we are, then the only wolves our grandchilren and great-grandchildren will know about will be in a museum or book. Why not start somewhere and start standing up for our wildlife and other things while we have a chance to do something about it. Do we forget that our government works for us and we have already let them do as they please with most issues. But, hey we just stand by and let them do it, so why complain if you aren’t willing to pick up the phone or keyboard and voice your concerns. I never thought any state would let ariel hunting of wolves take place, but neither did I imagine we’d be paying almost $4 per gallon for gas. Do you ever ask yourself why? We allow this to happen because we let it go unheard, unsaid, uncaringly. Let’s put a stop to the cruel treatment of our wolves and us by officials we put in office who are suppose to work for us. Let your voice be heard now.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan