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USFWS Announces New Rules For Wolf Management

January 25, 2008

Save a WolfWhile much of the west in and around the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone Park wait impatiently for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to formally announce the removal of the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act, the USFWS announced that until that event takes place, they are easing some of the restrictions on the wolf in order to give flexibility to states to implement actions to protect wild herds of elk, deer and moose, protect livestock, private property and for public safety. The states involved are Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

With a rapidly growing wolf population in this area, each year there are more and more conflicts cropping up with wolves. It is expected that in March sometime the USFWS will announce delisting but they also realize as many as 27 different agencies are preparing to present lawsuits to stop the delisting process. This could tie up the move in court for decades. The Fed, knowing this will more than likely be the case, will implement this change in order to give states flexibility to react to problems in a more timely manner.

Opponents of such a move and those who will never be satisfied, it seems, until New York City is overrun with wolves, are over reacting in their usual manner claiming hunters are going to systematically begin a senseless slaughter of the wolves.

“We’ve worked hard to bring wolves back from the brink of extinction,” said Sierra Club representative Melanie Stein. “If we call open season on wolves now, we could soon find ourselves back at the starting line. It’s a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars.”

In 1995 when wolves were reintroduced, it was announced to the public that 100 wolves would sustain a wolf population. Very conservative estimates place the wolf population in all three states in excess of 1,500 wolves and still the wolf lovers are crying foul, claiming that’s not enough to sustain a wolf population.

“This is a scheme based on backdoor politics, not science, and it goes too far. Wolves in the northern Rockies have only recently neared a point where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could consider removing federal protections from them. In finalizing this rule, the Service is ignoring its responsibility to ensure the long-term survival of the region’s wolf population,”

Those are claims made by Suzanne Stone, northern Rockies wolf conservation specialist for Defenders of Wildlife. With few people not directly involved in the original reintroduction of wolves, there is very little history that is passed on. Efforts by wolf lovers to manipulate the media to repeat the mantra, has been quite successful.

The question few people are asking is how many wolves are enough. Obviously that depends on who you talk to but efforts of those advocating for the wolf reveal to the rest of us that there will never be enough wolves.

Rep. Mike Phillips of Bozeman, Montana, also a scientist whose interests include recovery of endangered species, in an interview in 2007 for Rural Montana Magazine, said efforts to recover the wolf have gone too far.

Phillips was the National Park Service’s project leader for the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction effort from 1994-1997. Prior to that he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a field coordinator for the red wolf recovery effort in the Southwest. He says the idea that there are now over 1,500 wolves is far above what everyone was told, that 100 wolves in each state would be ample. He also says part of the problem came when USFWS decided to extent the recovery area.

“They extended recovery much further afield than ever imagined. Nobody ever imagined when we built the recovery plan that the vision would extend to the rest of the western U.S. That’s ridiculous. The wolf is recovered and should be removed from the Endangered Species Act list.”

Each of the three states have worked with the USFWS to create agreed upon wolf management plans that will take effect once the wolf is delisted. Part of that plan calls for managed hunts and ways to react quickly to resolve wolf and livestock conflicts. In anticipation of the lawsuits that will follow the announcement to delist, the USFWS thinks these new set of rules will help accomplish efforts to resolve the problems.

Phillips says that wolves don’t make a habit out of bothering ranchers but when they do, action is needed.

“The problems are real, involving private property. When there’s a conflict we should resolve it quickly.”

Comments by state officials indicate that they are pleased with the rules to give them more flexibility to be able to resolve conflicts but most don’t anticipate much need for it. Carolyn Sime, who is in charge of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf program, says she “wouldn’t rule it out” and she didn’t “see us relying on it a whole lot”.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says he knows of no areas where wolves are destroying elk herds in the west. That is probably debatable by some, especially concerning the elk herd in Yellowstone Park.

The point to all this is that USFWS and the three states, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, appear to be approaching this entire wolf delisting event with an attitude of being prepared and creating tools to be able to use in order to stave off any problems that may arise that would put elk, deer or moose herds in jeopardy from wolves. Reasonable people shouldn’t find a problem with that. Unreasonable people, which is what we are dealing with constantly with wolf recovery efforts, can only embellish facts and blow things completely out of proportion.

Unfortunately, this approach by the wolf lovers will cost Americans millions of dollars more before it is all done.

Tom Remington

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