State contemplates its next move following wolf relisting
Western Wyoming – Legislators who make up the state’s Travel, Recreation and Cultural Resources Interim Committee (TRW) want to know what Wyomingites think about recent actions surrounding wolves in Wyoming.
Senator Bruce Burns and Representative Pat Childers, co-chairmen of the TRW have announced two mid-October hearings. On Oct. 16 beginning at 8 a.m., testimony will be taken in Cody at the Cody Auditorium. On Oct. 17, beginning at 8 a.m. at Central Wyoming Community College in Riverton, additional testimony will be heard.
“The purpose of the meeting is to hear testimony regarding the status of state management of gray wolves and consider state action necessary to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list,” says a meeting announcement released by the Legislative Service Office.
Wolves were returned to management under the Endangered Species Act by a Montana judge in July of this year. Mid-September the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intentions to rescind its delisting rule.
“The judge said he felt there were three issues the FWS didn’t adequately address,” says Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton. “One was the state’s liberal defense of property laws, another was the lack of evidence of genetic exchange between populations and the last was Wyoming’s ‘malleable’ trophy game area and lack of commitment to 15 breeding pairs.”
Hamilton says, “To address the judge’s alleged concerns, Wyoming would have to allow wolf populations to expand to the point where genetic exchange would eventually occur and the FWS would have to show through genetic tests that exchanges have occurred. The state would have to change our law dealing with the ability of a landowner to take a trophy game animal caught killing stock as is currently the case for lions and bears. Thirdly the judge characterizes our law establishing a trophy game boundary for wolves as malleable. I’m not sure how you could make it any less malleable unless we amend the Wyoming Constitution.”
Wyoming Wool Growers Association Executive Vice President Bryce Reece says he doesn’t expect the FWS to take any further action until after the presidential election. Depending on the outcome, he says Wyoming could be looking at two completely different scenarios with which to deal.
“I believe the best course of action would be to continue to press the federal government to mitigate the problems caused by their big dogs, but refuse as a state to take responsibility for management,” says Hamilton. He further explains, pointing out that acquiescing to federal demands doesn’t guarantee delisting, “Under the current scenario wolf costs are bourn by the entity that placed them here. Under State management, the costs would be bourn by our citizens, but without having any authority.
“We should react with shock and anger that the FWS is unwilling or unable to defend its own decision,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “Before charting a course of action, we need for the FWS to be clear to the state as to their intentions. It is possible, though unlikely, that they could just strengthen the administrative record by addressing the lack of supporting information and the inconsistencies that the judge raised. Under this scenario,
Wyoming should be supportive. “
Magagna adds, “The more likely scenario is that they will pressure the state to further amend our wolf management statutes and plan or be threatened with exclusion from a future delisting. Wyoming should strongly resist this temptation. We are in a vicious circle. A new delisting decision will undoubtedly lead to further litigation and further calls for compromise. It really does not matter what assurances the FWS gives to the state. The future of wolf delisting is in the hands of the environmental extremists who do not want the wolf delisted under any circumstances and the judges who are supportive of their cause.”
One legislator has suggested statewide trophy game classification for wolves. Doing so, points out Hamilton, would results in a statewide wolf population. He says controlling wolf populations requires that 60 percent of the population be taken annually. “This cannot occur with just trophy game hunting. Other techniques must be employed,” he says.
“For Wyoming to try and play this game is foolishness,” says Reece. “We need to leave wolves with the federal government and let them manage them. In the meantime we need to work with Senators Barrasso and Tester to pass their legislation so livestock producers are compensated when wolves do what they’re going to do.”
Reece adds, “Based on what we’ve seen from the courts and wolf advocacy groups, it’s a no-win game we’re in. We can keep changing, changing and changing and we’ll never stop the lawsuits.”
Individuals who plan to provide written information to the Committee during the meeting should bring sufficient copies for members of the committee, committee staff, and interested members of the audience. In addition, an electronic copy of the materials is requested for the committee staff.
“WSGA urges all ranchers and sportsmen to attend the upcoming TRW meetings to express their views,” says Magagna. “We are the citizens whose property rights are impacted by the presence of wolves. It is essential that our voices be heard.”
Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.