Wolf Delisting Petition
WYG&F to consider delisting at July meeting in Rawlins
July 5, 2005
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will be addressing the topic of signing and submitting a petition to the US Department of the Interior to remove the Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population of wolves from the list of endangered and threatened species at their July meeting in Rawlins July 12-13.
The petition, which will also be signed by Governor Freudenthal, was drafted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Attorney General’s office. If approved and signed by Game and Fish Commissioners, it will be submitted to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. The petition is still in draft form and is being reviewed by the Attorney General’s office. A final draft of the petition will be released to the public following commission action on July 13. At that time, copies of the petition will be available at the meeting and on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department website.
Wolves were reintroduced into Wyoming and Idaho in 1995. The recovery objective for this population is 30 breeding pairs, or packs, comprising more than 300 individual wolves. By the fall of 2004, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimated that the population had grown to at least 66 breeding pairs and 835 individuals. Of those, some 24 breeding pairs and 260 individuals were in Wyoming.
"Wolf populations have expanded in Wyoming and surpassed recovery goals," said Terry Cleveland, Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "For this reason, the Game and Fish Department and the Governor’s office feel it is time to get wolves in this population removed from the Endangered Species List. Wolf populations are continuing to expand both in numbers and in range, and are causing increasing impacts to wildlife and livestock. Removing them from the Endangered Species List will allow the State of Wyoming to assume management of wolves within its borders and keep populations at a level that makes sense for Wyoming while also maintaining a recovered population. This petition is the next step toward getting wolves delisted and under state management."
Cleveland also said, "The Wyoming Legislature, with the passage of wolf legislation during the 2003 legislative session, clearly and unambiguously committed the state to proceed towards delisting of the gray wolf in Wyoming. The consideration of this petition is the next step in that process."
To remove wolves from the Endangered Species List, the USFWS requires Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to develop and implement individual wolf management plans. Montana and Idaho developed plans that have been approved by the USFWS. Wyoming also developed a plan, but it was rejected by the USFWS in 2003. A federal district court found that the court did not have the ability to review the USFWS rejection of Wyoming ’s wolf management plan because the rejection was not a "final agency action." Wyoming is appealing the district court’s decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The petition asks for two main changes to the current status of wolves. The first is "to revise the status of the gray wolf by establishing the Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment." The second is "to concurrently remove the gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment from the List of Endangered and Threatened Species."
"Wolves are now a part of the ecosystem in Northwestern Wyoming," said Cleveland. "As their numbers continue to grow, and as they continue to expand outside of suitable habitats, they almost always become involved with livestock depredations and other conflicts that result in the lethal take of wolves. Expanding wolf populations are also affecting Wyoming’s wildlife. Last winter, wolf packs continually moved elk off of feedgrounds and onto private lands and even highways, where public safety and an increased risk of Brucellosis transmission to cattle became a real problem."
Wyoming’s wolf management plan would help maintain and control wolf numbers through a dual classification system. Wolves would be classified as "trophy game" in areas of northwestern Wyoming that are considered suitable wolf habitat. Outside of those areas, wolves would be classified as "predatory animals."
"The State of Wyoming is committed to managing a recovered population of wolves in northwestern Wyoming," said Cleveland. "Wyoming’s plan includes elements that will ensure wolf populations remain at recovered levels. We have no intention of allowing this population to become jeopardized to the extent that it must again be listed under the Endangered Species Act."
Once the petition to delist wolves is filed, the USFWS has 90 days to review the petition and determine whether it contains substantial information to indicate the petitioned action may be warranted. If a positive 90-day finding is issued, the USFWS then conducts a more detailed review to determine whether the petitioned action is or is not warranted. The final decision is issued 12 months after the petition is filed.
The July meeting of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will be held July 12-13 at the Jeffrey Memorial Community Center, 315 East Pine, in Rawlins.