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Wyoming groups oppose transplants outside historic ranges

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to claim authority to release populations of federally protected species into areas those species never previously inhabited has been met with opposition from a variety of Wyoming’s natural resource managers. 

In a notice proposing to alter regulations for implementing provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), FWS proposed to eliminate references to the historical range of a species for such transplants “to allow flexibility to establish an experimental population beyond the current or historical range, if FWS determines it is necessary to address impacts of climate change and provide for the conservation of the species.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department stated it does not support such a policy shift, noting, “The department is concerned the introduction of ESA-listed species outside of their historical ranges may result in ecological release, due to the absence of natural factors (e.g. predators and competing species) that normally limit their populations.” In addition, “This proposal opens the door to unintended restrictions to state and private activities as a result of the translocation of endangered species to areas outside their historical ranges.”

The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts also went on record in opposition to the removal of language restricting the introduction of experimental populations to only historical ranges. 

Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) Executive Director Alison Crane wrote of WWGA’s opposition as well, noting, “If finalized, this ruling threatens to harm rural economies and communities, expand the authority and burden of a federal network and in the end undermine the conservation objectives the proposed rule seeks out to address.”

A coalition of livestock associations, including WWGA, Wyoming Stock Growers Association and the Wyoming State Grazing Board, joined together in submitting a letter of comment noting the proposed rule “inappropriately expands federal jurisdiction, impacts small businesses” and “risks unintended consequences” for the environment.

The vagueness of the proposal “is tantamount to a regulatory ‘we’ll know it when we see it’ determination, not based in science or current conditions but an arbitrary statement of future potential,” according to the livestock associations, pointing to their concern the FWS is attempting to give itself “boundless opportunity to establish new populations with as few parameters as possible despite the likelihood for significant impacts.”

The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation opposed the proposal as well, stating its opposition to what it views as “open-ended language of habitat designation on either public or private land at any time in the future.”

Of the 558 comment letters received by FWS, 263 were form letters sent by environmental activists in support of the proposal.

Government officials in the neighboring states of Idaho, Montana and Utah sent letters in opposition to the changes in federal regulations.

Cat Urbigkit is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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