FWS publishes notice to delist gray wolf in Wyoming
On Oct. 5 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) took the next step on their side of the agreement with Wyoming to delist the gray wolf.
Following approval of the revised wolf management plan by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission on Sept. 14, the FWS has proposed to remove the gray wolf population in Wyoming from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
“This is an important step for Wyoming,” said Governor Matt Mead on Oct. 4, when FWS announced it would publish the rule in the Federal Register on Oct. 5. “The Department of Interior is following through on its commitment to turn over wolf management to Wyoming, which is where it belongs. I am encouraged, but there are still several more steps to go. I do want to thank Secretary Salazar, Director Ashe and our Congressional Delegation for all of their work to get us to this point and I look forward to working with the Wyoming Legislature to keep us moving towards having control of a species that has such a significant impact on the state.”
Senator Mike Enzi says that even wolf lovers should be happy with the plan.
“This proposal gives everyone something to like. Big game hunters will see management that allows the wolf not to decimate our big game herds. Ranchers will also benefit. Even wolf lovers should be happy with this announcement. There are hundreds and hundreds of wolves in the Rockies that were not there before the federal government forced them on our states. Now, we’ve agreed to keep them at certain population levels and to let the state be the judge over how to best manage the animals.”
“Due to recovery efforts and the provisions of the revised state plan, the Wyoming wolf population is healthy and stable, current and future threats to wolves have been addressed, and a post-delisting monitoring and management framework has been developed,” says a statement released by FWS on Oct. 4.
If the proposal is finalized, the gray wolf would be delisted in Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act, and future management, except in national parks and national wildlife refuges, would be conducted by the appropriate state or tribal wildlife agencies.
“After years of hard work by the Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners to achieve the successful recovery of wolves in the northern Rockies, Wyoming wolves are ready to stand on their own under the management of the professional wildlife biologists of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in a release. “We expect Wyoming’s wolf population will be maintained well above recovery levels under state management, and we have worked with the state to develop a strong post-delisting monitoring and management plan to ensure that this remarkable conservation success endures for future generations.”
According to FWS, the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population is biologically recovered, with more than 1,650 wolves, 244 packs and over 110 breeding pairs. It has exceeded recovery goals for 11 consecutive years, fully occupies nearly all suitable habitat, and has high levels of genetic diversity.
Under the state plan, wolves will continue to be subject to federal management in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and within the National Elk Refuge.
Outside the parks and refuge, wolves in northwest Wyoming will be managed as trophy game animals and human-caused mortality (including hunting) will be carefully regulated. Collectively, FWS says the area encompasses nearly all of Wyoming’s current wolf breeding pairs, the vast majority of the suitable habitat, and is large enough to maintain Wyoming’s share of a recovered wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains.
In addition, the trophy game area will expand from Oct. 15 to the end of February each year.
“Wyoming’s nearly decade-long saga on the fully recovered gray wolf is, I hope, coming to an end,” says Representative Cynthia Lummis. “There is still work to be done, but today’s news is further momentum in the fight to grant Wyoming’s on-the-ground experts the right to manage our wolves. I look forward to the conclusion of our state’s delisting efforts, which have been held up by Washington intrusion and repeated lawsuits that should have been resolved long ago.”
As the next step in delisting, FWS is seeking scientific information and comments from the public about the proposal, including the post-delisting monitoring and management framework. Written comments regarding the proposal may be submitted by one of the following methods:
• Federal eRulemaking Portal: regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS–R6–ES–2011–0039].
• U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. [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 within 100 days, on or before Jan. 13, 2012. FWS will post all comments on regulations.gov. The Service is not able to accept email or fax comments.
A peer review panel is scheduled to conduct an assessment of this proposal during the public comment period. Once completed in December, this assessment will be posted online at fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/.
For information, contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mountain-Prairie Region Office, Ecological Services Division, 134 Union Blvd., Lakewood, CO 80228; telephone 303–236–7400.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.