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Gray Wolf population removed from Endangered Species List

Welcome news for Wyoming citizens struggling to coexist with reintroduced species

August 31, 2012

More than a decade after their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park, the Gray Wolf will be removed from the endangered species list and management of the population outside the park will be left to the capable wildlife experts in the state of Wyoming, Wyoming’s congressional delegation said Friday.

The new rule issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Aug. 31 specifies that Wyoming must maintain at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 individual wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. The transfer of management responsibility from the federal government to the state of Wyoming highlights the full recovery of the wolf, and ensures a viable wolf population into the future under the authority of Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department, according to the delegation.

In recent years area ranchers and hunters have watched helplessly as the growing wolf population has taken down livestock and native wildlife at an alarming rate. Wyoming’s congressional delegation said well-funded environmental groups filing repeated and pricey lawsuits have managed to keep the wolf under the protection of the “endangered” classification despite concrete scientific evidence confirming that the wolf population long ago reached recovery goals.

Wyoming’s congressional delegation and Governors have been working to remove the Gray Wolf from the endangered species list for many years.

“The federal government forced wolves on us in the 1990s,” said Senator Mike Enzi. “We’ve spent many years trying to work out a balanced plan, two of which have been rejected. This plan is the result of hard work by two governors, the legislature and the delegation. Wyoming should be in charge of Wyoming’s wildlife. There is still plenty of room in Yellowstone for the federal government to do its job and manage wolves. Wyoming game managers will do their part to maintain the agreed upon wolf numbers outside the park. Unfortunately, I’m sure there will still be some wolf advocates who will react the only way they seem to know how to react, they’ll sue.”

“Today’s rule rightfully puts Wyoming in control of managing the wolf—not Washington,” said Senator John Barrasso. “Our state has surpassed recovery goals and honored its commitments, and this rule finally recognizes that fact. I appreciate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service working with the state to produce a plan that delists the wolf and leaves its management in the capable hands of Wyoming’s wildlife officials.”

“There is no question that the Gray Wolf has fully recovered,” said Representative Cynthia Lummis. “It has been a long road to this point, and Wyoming's ranchers and big game hunters have had to sacrifice for many years and finally accept a less than perfect deal, but I’m satisfied with the plan, and am extremely relieved that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held up its end of the bargain to delist the Gray Wolf. The only question remaining is if litigation-happy groups will finally end their campaign of perpetual federal control and give Wyoming the breathing room it needs to successfully maintain the wolf population. If not, the fight will continue, and I am ready for it."

Neighboring states Idaho and Montana faced similar issues with Gray Wolf recovery populations. However, in recognition of the full recovery of the wolf, the federal government relinquished wolf management authority over to those states last year. The species has been successfully managed and maintained by the state since.