Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Wolves and Wyoming – Feds release Wyo. wolf delist plan

Cheyenne, Wyo. (AP) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on
Tuesday released a plan for removing wolves from endangered species
status in Wyoming that would codify a compromise between
protections in the Yellowstone region and allowing wolves to be
shot on sight elsewhere in the state.

The draft plan posted online and set for publication in the
Federal Register on Wednesday opens the way for Wyoming’s wolves to
be removed from the endangered list as soon as next summer, said
Michael Thabault, assistant regional director for ecological
services for the Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain Prairie
Region.

The proposal follows a delisting framework that Fish and
Wildlife and Wyoming officials agreed to last summer after months
of negotiations.

“We’ve obviously put a little bit more meat on the bone from the
principle of the agreement,” Thabault said. “But substantively
it’s the same.”

New details spell out plans for genetic testing of wolves and
how the state would permit the killing of wolves that have killed
livestock, he said.

Wolves have been controversial in Wyoming since their
reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s. They
have proliferated: About 300 wolves live in Wyoming and some 1,600
across the region now.

Wyoming’s proposal to classify wolves as trophy game subject to
regulated hunting in northwest Wyoming – and as predators that
could be killed on sight elsewhere – hung up delisting in the state
while Montana and Idaho inched toward taking over management of
their populations.

Wolves were delisted in Idaho and Montana earlier this year.

Gov. Matt Mead said the document is an “important step” and
shows that Fish and Wildlife is following through on its commitment
to turn wolf management over to Wyoming.

“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,” Mead said in a release.

The Wyoming Legislature would need to approve the plan first.
The full Legislature is scheduled to meet in February.

The plan also will go through a 100-day public comment period
starting this week and ongoing scientific peer review. Delisting is
unlikely before this summer but will occur no later than a year
from now, Thabault said.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock
Growers Association, said the plan’s release showed the federal
government is moving “expeditiously” on Wyoming wolves. An
environmental group criticized the plan, saying the predator status
outside Yellowstone would impede wolf migration to the south.

“From our perspective it’s once again an example of the Fish and
Wildlife Service stepping away from larger recovery of wolves in
the West,” said Noah Greenwald with the Center for Biological
Diversity. “This is going to make it incredibly difficult for
wolves to get to extensive habitat in Colorado and make a comeback
there as well.”

The key point is that the plan offers enough protection to
maintain a viable wolf population in Wyoming, said Chris Tollefson,
a Fish and Wildlife spokesman in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve got the core habitat protected and this is really, in our
minds, going to ensure that wolves remain off the endangered
species list,” Tollefson said. “And I think that is everybody’s
goal.”

Wolves would be fully protected in Yellowstone National Park and
other national park lands in northwest Wyoming. Elsewhere in that
corner of the state, they would be classified as a trophy game
animal open to regulated hunting part of the year by people with
hunting licenses.

The federal delisting plan includes a “flex zone” in southern
Teton County where wolves would be classified as predators part of
the year and as trophy game during the rest of the year.

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