September 17, 2008

Feds Call Off Wolf Hunts In the Rockies

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said on Tuesday gray wolves will remain on the endangered species list in the Northern Rockies.

The announcement comes just months after a rule was issued in March which would have allowed public hunting for the region's approximately 1,500 wolves.

Ed Bangs, a Fish and Wildlife Service coordinator said the rule would be withdrawn in coming weeks. Meanwhile, wildlife agencies in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have already started preparations for hunting of the gray wolf.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy blocked the states from going forward pending resolution of a lawsuit by environmentalists in July.

"Hopefully, they'll go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan that better protects wolves," said Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold, who had sued on behalf of a dozen environmental groups that argue wolves in the region remain imperiled.

The decision to withdraw the recovery rule is subject to final approval by the Department of Justice.

In his July injunction against the planned hunts, Molloy raised concerns about whether wolves would have enough genetic diversity, through breeding, to sustain their population.

Bangs, coordinator for the government's Northern Rockies wolf recovery program, said he still believes there are enough wolves to merit public hunting. But he said the government needs to adequately explain why wolves no longer need federal protection before making a new proposal.

"This means you do away with the de-listing rule and give it back to the Fish and Wildlife Service to think about more," he said. "There's going to be a thorough, fine-toothed comb going through it to decide what we can do better."


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