Wyo-fed wolf talks fail. Wolves safe?

Wyo-fed wolf talks fail. By Whitney Royster. Casper Star Tribune.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Wolf Decision ‘Political’ 

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to let Wyoming kill wolves just because the governor says the wolves are “hurting big game herds.” Governor Dave Freudenthal (Dem.) has given many contradictory explanations how wolves are hurting big game in Wyoming, outside Yellowstone National Park.

Several weeks ago the Service indicated they might go along with Wyoming’s wolf management plan, which they had long held to be defective. Bills for new Wyoming wolf management plans were introduced in the state legislature (which will now soon adjourn). The bills, however, tended to make Wyoming’s proposed wolf management, which had already been rejected twice, even more hostile to the presence of wolves.

Perhaps sensing the Service would not accept an even more hostile wolf plan, Wyoming’s governor asked the U.S. Wildlife Service to let Wyoming kill wolves while the state and the federal government dickered during the next year (and perhaps beyond).

The talks ended yesterday in what Whitney Royster (above) wrote was “a high-spirited, often angry and name-calling press conference.”

Freudenthal has been inconsistent to why he regards the wolves as such a problem. Earlier he said they were decimating Wyoming’s big game herds. Later he said the wolves weren’t, but would. At any rate, their presence had made hunting more difficult because the wolves have changed the behavior of big game, implying is was too hard for Wyoming hunters to learn to adapt.

I have argued for many years, that Wyoming doesn want to really manage wolves. Instead the goal is either “a prison” for them in Yellowstone Park, or the current situation which provides an often useful emotional issue to be raised whenever other political events draw the public’s attention.

It now appears that Wyoming wolves will continue under federal management and might be safer than Idaho wolves which will soon be subject to a hunt, for which Idaho’s new governor, Butch Otter, suggests a population reduction of 80%. Idaho went forward with a minimal wolf plan, crafted by livestock interests, which was approved serveral years ago by USFWS, but only goes into full effect when wolves are fully delisted. That could be by next fall.

Currently the USFWS is requesting your comments on their proposed wolf delisting in Idaho and Montana (but not Wyoming).



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  1. Buffaloed Avatar

    Is there any implications for Idaho and Montana wolves because of this? Didn’t the original plan call for all three states having acceptable managment plans before delisting? It seems to me that there is a lawsuit there that someone is likely to file regardless of its effectiveness in slowing or stopping the delisting process.

    I’m not asking about the strategy of the wolf groups but it seems that the original plan is not being followed.

  2. Bob Fanning Avatar
    Bob Fanning

    answer to Buffaloed

    Yes, any Agency administrative ruling or order to delist wolves will result in automatic lawsuits from enviro /animal rights orgs. who have already promised 1/30/07 to sue.
    Those organizations only have ‘standing’ to sue once they have been ‘harmed’ by aforementioned Administrative order.
    Untill then, those enviro/animal rights orgs. are relegated to the sidlines as spectators.

    Ralph, get a written legal opinion from “Earth Justice ” before you jump to conclusions.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Buffaloed, I don’t think they are following the delisting plan; and Bob, don’t be cryptic. What do you want to say be behalf of your group?

  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Having just read the actual delisting proposal as published in the Federal Register, it’s clear that the FWS is:

    1) Capitulating to Wyoming’s use of the “predatory animal” classification for three-quarters of the state and

    2) Redefining the term “significant portion of its range,” as used in the ESA, in an arbitrary and capricious manner to deny that historic portions of wolves’ range requires protection and occupation before delisting.

    The proposal is fundamentally dishonest and shot through with political distortion of science and common sense.

    The FWS is proposing to delist wolves in the entire Distinct Population Segment, defined geographically as Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and parts of Utah, Oregon, and Washington, EXCEPT for the area of northwestern Wyoming it recently proposed for trophy game status to Wyoming in settlement of Wyoming’s lawsuit.

    The FWS is declaring this particular area of northwestern Wyoming the only valid “significant portion” of the wolf’s range that needs protection from the State’s determination to treat wolves as predatory animals.

    This “protected” area generally follows State Highway 120 from the Montana state line south into Cody, thence south to the northwest corner of the Wind River Reservation, thence further south along the border of the Reservation to the Continental divide, thence southwest down to US Highway 191 through Pinedale, and finally west to the Idaho border.

    Wolves in this area will remain under the 10j classification by which they were originally reintroduced to the GYE and central Idaho.

    Thus, the Wyoming and Salt River Ranges, although part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, are excluded. The rest of Wyoming is also excluded. That includes clearly suitable wolf habitat in the Bighorn Mountains, the Laramie Mountains, the Medicine Bow Mountains, and the Sierra Madre Mountains.

    The FWS, through various legal and scientific casuistries, asserts that although the rest of Wyoming is part of the wolf’s historic range, it does not constitute a significant portion of the wolf’s range NOW, and therefore the rest of Wyoming cannot be considered a “significant portion” of the wolf’s range for the purposes of the ESA.

    In short,the FWS is asserting that it is not obligated by the ESA to ensure that wolves are recovered throughout their historic range, only their currently occupied range.

    This is clearly a deliberate contradiction of the plain meaning and intent of the ESA, most recently affirmed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The main consequence of this proposal, if supported by the courts, means that after delisting wolves will only be protected in northwest Wyoming, while wolves that stray into the rest of the State can be shot as predators–which is precisely what the State of Wyoming is demanding and what is forbidden by the original requirements for delisting. The original requirement was that Wyoming have an adequate regulatory mechanism for wolf conservation and management throughout the ENTIRE State, not just the northwest corner.

    I’m starting to look forward to the lawsuits.

  5. Buffaloed Avatar

    This is as I thought. I don’t think that wolves will be hunted soon because of these complications. This will mean many more years of screaming about the “non-native, Canadian wolves that were dumped on us by the Feds”.

  6. be Avatar

    Those organizations only have ’standing’ to sue once they have been ‘harmed’ by aforementioned Administrative order.

    ever heard of a preliminary injunction?

  7. Buffaloed Avatar

    I’m not exactly up on how these kinds of things work so I asked here. What would constitute harm and give the groups standing in court? Will there likely be something done in the delisting process that would constitute harm?

    What gave the groups standing to sue in the previous decision over the “significant portion of its range” argument?


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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