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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is hopeful the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to switch the protected status of the gray wolf from "endangered" to "threatened" will lead to a quicker delisting of the species in Wyoming.

Enzi said the agency's action does not change the status of Wyoming's "experimental" population now, but he believes it is a sign that federal officials under the Bush Administration are willing to move forward with delisting and recognize state wildlife management interests.

"This is a move toward delisting of the wolf and that is good news for Wyoming and the species itself," said Enzi. "The key is the division of different areas of the country. This allows each wolf population to be managed separate from other regions. When the population in and around Wyoming reaches a point where delisting can occur, delisting should proceed. Once that happens Wyoming and other states will have the flexibility they need to properly manage the wolf.

Enzi added, in light of the past success the federal government has had with delisting species, "I'm not holding my breath."

Enzi commended the recent work of the Wyoming Legislature, which recently passed a law that clears the status of the wolf after it is delisted.

Under the new law, once the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delists the wolf, the state will classify it as a trophy game animal in Yellowstone National and Grand Teton National Parks. Trophy game animals require permits issued by the Wyoming Game and Fish in order to be killed. Once there are 15 established wolf packs in the state wolves, outside the parks would be classified as predators. No permit is necessary in order to kill predators.

"I support our state's efforts to gain management authority of wolves. Wyoming should have control of the wildlife within its borders. I'm confident in the ability of the state Game and Fish, an agency that is accountable to the citizens of Wyoming, unlike the federal bureaucracy," said Enzi.

However, Enzi is working on the federal accountability problem too. He is drafting legislation that would amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to require the federal government to pay for all costs relating to the management of a species covered by the ESA. He intends to introduce the bill in the coming weeks.