August 10, 2022

U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Offers Compromise To Wyoming On Wolf Management Program

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Delisting the wolf in the tri-state areas of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana has been stalled for some time because the USFWS has refused to accept Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan. In short, Wyoming’s plan proposed a “movable boundary” in and around the Yellowstone Park area. This movable boundary, which could reach as close to Yellowstone as park boundaries, would change as needed to better control wolf populations.

Inside this boundary, the state would manage the wolf as a game animal, meaning it could be hunted and regulated like other game species through permits and seasons. Outside this boundary, Wyoming suggested the wolf be treated as a predator, meaning it could be shot on sight at anytime. The Feds rejected the plan.

With this rejection, Wyoming filed a lawsuit believing their plan fell within the guidelines of the wolf recovery program. The USFWS has approved Idaho’s and Montana’s wolf plans, which designate the wolf as a game animal.

With the USFWS wanting to get the wolf off the protected list and get management into the hands of the three states, Mitch King, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Denver-based Mountain-Prairie Region, has presented a compromise deal to Wyoming. The compromise would create a fixed boundary as described in the Casper Star-Tribune.

The new boundary would start at the Wyoming-Montana border south of Red Lodge and run roughly south on Highway 120 to Meeteetse, then southwest to the northwest corner of the Wind River Indian Reservation. From there it would drop south to Pinedale before continuing northwest on Highway 191 to the Alpine area south of Jackson and then north to Yellowstone National Park.

Outside this proposed fixed boundary, there is only one known wolf pack residing and officials have pared that pack down to two because of constant predation on livestock. And speaking of livestock, the Wyoming livestock owners have flat out rejected this compromise deal.

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association, however, rejected the idea outright. Spokesman Jim Magagna said the group frowns on the inclusion of private land between Meeteetse and Cody and around Dubois in the expanded wolf management area.

He said about 10,000 head of cattle and 4,000 head of sheep graze on U.S. Forest Service land inside the redrawn boundaries.

“Perhaps the state can come up with a counter offer to take back, but we will urge strongly that this proposal not be accepted,” Magagna said.

Ed Bangs, USFWS wolf program coordinator, said he hoped the proposal would start a new dialog that might move the issue forward.

Tom Remington