Wolf delisting rule final
Official delisting in 30 days
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
February 21, 2008
The gray wolf population in the Northern Rocky Mountains is thriving and no longer requires the protection of the Endangered Species Act, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett announced today. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will remove the species from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.
“The wolf population in the Northern Rockies has far exceeded its recovery goal and continues to expand its size and range. States, tribes, conservation groups, federal agencies and citizens of both regions can be proud of their roles in this remarkable conservation success story,” said Scarlett, noting that there are currently more than 1,500 wolves and at least 100 breeding pairs in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.
FWS-approved state management plans will provide a secure future for the wolf population once Endangered Species Act protections are removed and the states assume full management of wolf populations within their borders.
The northern Rocky Mountain DPS includes all of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, as well as the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, and a small part of north-central Utah.
The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains was set at a minimum of 30 breeding pairs (a breeding pair represents a successfully reproducing wolf pack) and a minimum of 300 individual wolves for at least three consecutive years.
This goal was achieved in 2002, and the wolf population has expanded in size and range every year since.
“These wolves have shown an impressive ability to breed and expand – they just needed an opportunity to establish themselves in the Rockies. The Service and its partners provided that opportunity, and now it’s time to integrate wolves into the states’ overall wildlife management efforts,” said Service Director H. Dale Hall.
Gray wolves were previously listed as endangered in the lower 48 states, except in Minnesota, where they were listed as threatened. The wolf population in the Midwest was delisted in early 2007. When the delisting of the Rocky Mountain population takes effect 30 days from its publication in the Federal Register, the Service will oversee the only remaining gray wolf recovery program, for the southwestern U.S. wolf population.
The delisting announced today affects only the northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves. Gray wolves found outside of the Rocky Mountain and Midwest recovery areas, including the southwest wolf population, remain protected under the Endangered Species Act and are not affected by actions taken today.
Wyoming state law was changed to give Wyoming Game and Fish Department the legal authority to maintain the wolf population of at least 15 breeding pairs and at least 150 wolves in mid-winter, including maintaining at least 7 wolf breeding pairs in suitable habitat in northwestern Wyoming outside the national parks – consistent with the requirements of the Act. Service Director H. Dale Hall approved Wyoming’s plan on December 15, 2007, conditional on it becoming fully effective under Wyoming State law, which should happen in March 2008. The plan must be in effect before the delisting rule becomes effective 30 days after its publication.