August 5, 2011

Deal Reached To Delist Wolves In Wyoming

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar have reportedly reached a deal that would allow the state to strip gray wolves of Endangered Species Act protection and allow them to be hunted, according to various media reports Thursday.

According to Laura Zuckerman of Reuters, the agreement was reached "after years of legal battles among the state, the federal government and conservation groups over how many wolves Wyoming would be required to maintain to ensure the recovery of an animal once driven nearly to extinction by hunting, trapping and poisoning campaigns."

"The state would also expand an area near the park where wolves could not be killed except during established hunting seasons," she added. "In exchange, the federal government would remove wolves in Wyoming from the threatened and endangered species list and give the state the authority to manage the animals as long as their numbers statewide--including the portion of Yellowstone in Wyoming--stayed at 150 or more."

It would remain illegal to kill wolves in many parts of the state, Zuckerman said. However, farmers and ranchers would be permitted "to shoot the predators on sight" statewide in order to protect their livestock and other wildlife, Ben Neary of the Associated Press (AP) added.

Wyoming is "the last state in the Northern Rockies where the animals remain under federal management," Neary said. A U.S. District Court earlier today upheld legislation that stripped those wolves of protection in Montana, Idaho, and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah, he added.

The plan must still be approved by the state's legislature, Zuckerman said.

In a statement, Mead said, "This is far from the end of this process, but I think we have come up with something that fits with Wyoming's values and economy."

"For years, ranchers and sheep producers have been asked to sacrifice, and they have," the governor added, according to Neary. "We have lost significant numbers of elk and moose, and we have not had a say in the management of an animal inside Wyoming"¦ It's time for that to change."

Many were critical of the deal. According to Reuters, Doug Honnold, managing attorney for the Northern Rockies office of Earthjustice, called it "a laughable proposal."

Center for Biological Diversity lawyer Collette Adkins Giese told Neary that her organization believes that "important that wolf management decisions be based on science, and not on these kind of closed-door political negotiations."

Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, agreed, writing, according to the AP, "Science, not politics, should ensure the conservation and management of the gray wolves in Wyoming, should they be delisted."


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