The matter of whether wolves in the northern Rockies should be federally protected is again being considered and Wyoming leaders are already expressing their frustration.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday announced a 90-day finding on a petition to add the gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains and a petition to add the gray wolf in western North America to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
“The state of Wyoming has long demonstrated it can effectively manage and protect the state’s wolf population,” Sen. John Barrasso said in a Wednesday statement. “Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the courts have determined the gray wolf has recovered enough to be delisted in the state.
“Today’s actions are just more of the endless political antics from Washington bureaucrats and extreme environmentalists who have no interest in doing what’s right for Wyoming. Wyoming, not Washington, continues to be in the best position to manage the state’s wolf population.”
The decision comes as the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have already been contesting the return of grizzly bears to the ESA in 2018 after a brief period off the list. Wolves have been fully delisted in the region since 2017, after a back-and-forth with the federal government for most of the decade.
Grizzly bears were also delisted in 2017, but a federal judge in Montana returned them to ESA protection the following year, just before a fall hunt in Wyoming could commence.
“Based on our review, we find that the petitions present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted,” the USFWS stated in a court brief. “Therefore, with the publication of this document, we announce that we plan to initiate a status review to determine whether the petitioned actions are warranted.”
The agency is requesting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding the species and factors that may affect its status.
The decision comes in response to an emergency petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund and Sierra Club.
Those groups specifically pointed out new regulations in Idaho and Montana that allow for more wolves to be hunted than in the past.
“I’m hopeful that wolves will eventually get the protection they deserve, but the Fish and Wildlife Service should have stopped the wolf-killing now,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Anti-wolf policies in Idaho and Montana could wipe out wolves and erase decades of wolf recovery. We’re glad that federal officials have started a review, but wolves are under the gun now so they need protection right away.”
The Endangered Species Act requires that the Service make a final decision within one year of the May 26, 2021, petition.
Gov. Mark Gordon said he’s not concerned about the findings going against the states.
“Wyoming has managed wolves according to our plan, and that plan has been sufficient to satisfy wolf population targets while allowing producers to take appropriate measures to protect livestock,” he said. “Ours was a hard-fought and careful process that resulted in a unique plan that works. If it’s not broken we don’t need to fix it. Wyoming will stand by our plan, which is supported with unassailable data.
“We respect all state’s abilities to manage wildlife within their borders. This is just another example of a federal action which attempts to usurp states’ authorities.”