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Smiliey Hang'out > Carrie-beer > Feds Propose Wolf Deal

Posted by: Elffster Dec 15 2006, 04:29 PM

By Cory Hatch

A compromise on Wyoming’s wolf management plan, if accepted, could lead to the removal of the wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will meet with Gov. Dave Freudenthal on Monday to discuss the compromise, proposed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Mitch King.

The plan includes a permanent region where the Wyoming Game and Fish Department would manage wolves as trophy game, which means they could be shot only by hunters who first obtain a license. The boundary would run from Cody to Meeteetse, around the outer edge of the Wind River Reservation, down to the Boulder River, back up through Pinedale, and up to Jackson and west to the Idaho state line. Outside of that boundary, wolves would be considered predators and could be killed without regulation.

Wyoming’s current wolf management plan, which the federal government has rejected, contains a moveable boundary between trophy and predator areas that Game and Fish would review every six months. State officials could expand or shrink the boundary based on population sizes. The movable boundary could shrink to the designated wilderness areas adjacent to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.

Wyoming is currently in litigation with the Fish and Wildlife Service over the service’s refusal to accept the plan, and wolves cannot be delisted until Wyoming’s plan is adopted. Fish and Wildlife has already accepted wolf plans from Idaho and Montana.

“One of the discomforts of wolf experts like Ed [Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] was that this line would fluctuate,” King said. “This is what I think will pass muster and will satisfy the biological requirements of the recovery plan.”

King said he will spend the next month talking with Wyoming officials and legislators about any concerns they have over the proposed compromise.

“The real prize here is delisting the wolf,” he said.

According to Bangs, King’s proposal should provide enough protection for Wyoming wolves.

“Biologically, I think that’s fine, that would work,” Bangs said. “We really don’t need them [wolves] ... to be outside that area to meet our recovery objectives.”

The proposed boundary would encompass all the current wolf packs in the state of Wyoming with the exception of the Carter Mountain Pack west of Meeteetse. Carter Mountain is in Shoshone National Forest just outside the Washakie Wilderness area. Bangs said Fish and Wildlife officers have tried to eliminate the pack during the past two years because the wolves around Carter Mountain continuously prey on livestock.

The proposed plan would compensate ranchers who lose livestock to wolves inside the trophy area, but outside the boundary, where wolves could be killed year round by any means, ranchers would receive no compensation for lost animals.

Bangs said that it’s time to remove wolves from Endangered Species Act protection.

“This is us reaching out, saying, ‘We think this will work for you, it will certainly work for us, lets talk about it,’” he said. “Everybody knows that the wolf population has recovered and everybody believes that the management of the recovered wolf population is best handled by the states. Wyoming will have to decide whether it’s in their best interest or not.”

Freudenthal’s press secretary Lara Azar said the governor hasn’t formed an opinion on the proposed compromise.

“We will wait to judge that proposal until we hear it,” she said.

Clark Allan, Game and Fish commissioner from Teton County, said the plan could work.

“If everything I’ve heard about it turns out to be true, then I’m in favor of it,” he said. “I’m very optimistic, but I want to see it in writing.”

State Rep. Pat Childers, a Republican from Cody, one of the leaders in Wyoming’s efforts to sue Fish and Wildlife over the wolf plan, called the compromise a possibility.

Childers said Fish and Wildlife still needs to address issues like wolves on private land, grazing and monitoring. Further, Childers said he wants an iron-clad commitment from Fish and Wildlife.

“In jest, I said I want some blood on that letter ... Mr. Bang’s blood,” Childers said. “I need a firm commitment by him.”

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