With wolf hunts underway in Idaho and Montana, we are headed back to court to challenge the latest removal of Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the state of Wyoming. Wyoming and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service left us no choice, as Wyoming’s “wolf management” plan sanctions the complete eradication of wolves in approximately 85% of the state and requires Wyoming to maintain only 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in the entire state outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. Only the northwest corner of Wyoming, in the area surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, will allow for wolves, but regulated wolf hunting will also take place there.
While it is true that most of the wolves in Wyoming currently reside in that northwestern corner of the state, the Wyoming plan ensures that wolves will never be allowed beyond that imposed boundary – a policy of absolute intolerance for a species that our country just spent the last several decades working to recover. Furthermore, by restricting wolves to the northwest corner and reducing the number of wolves surrounding Yellowstone, Wyoming’s plan compromises the ability of wolves to successfully travel (and exchange DNA) between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the remaining wolf subpopulations in central Idaho and northwest Montana – a component that has been identified as critical to the survival of the entire Northern Rockies wolf population.
The Wyoming plan is almost identical to an earlier version that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rejected as inadequate to protect wolves – and a federal judge found that it put the continued existence of the wolf in Wyoming “in serious jeopardy.” In fact, the Service spent years insisting that Wyoming needed to develop a credible statewide plan. But, repeatedly, Wyoming refused. And the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service? Well, instead of keeping Endangered Species Act protections in place for wolves in Wyoming until the state adopted an acceptable management plan, the Service caved in to political pressure and approved a plan that is almost identical to the one they (and a federal court) previously rejected.
Wyoming’s plan takes us back to the exact eradication practices that endangered the wolf in the first place. The Endangered Species Act was created to remedy these very practices, not to reinstate them. And while we certainly don’t think that wolves will need the protections of the Endangered Species Act forever, we believe that those protections should be in place until states like Wyoming commit to responsible statewide management that will ensure the continued survival of what has been one of our country’s greatest conservation success stories.
You can tell Secretary of Interior Salazar that you disapprove of this plan by clicking here.