Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Updated: Wyoming, Feds, reach deal on delisting wolves

By JEREMY PELZER Star-Tribune capital bureau

CHEYENNE - After years of fighting, the state of Wyoming and the federal government have reached an agreement to remove the state's roughly 340 wolves from the endangered species list and put them under state control.

Under the so-called dual-status plan, wolves in the northwest part of the state would be protected as trophy game, meaning they could only be hunted with a license.

The 60 or so wolves in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks -- which includes five to six breeding pairs -- would be delisted but wouldn't be under state control.

In a media release announcing the deal, Mead said wolves have long preyed on livestock and game animals such as moose and elk in the state.

"This is far from the end of this process, but I think we have come up with something that fits with Wyoming's values and economy," Mead said in the release. "Wolves are recovered in Wyoming; let's get them off the endangered species list."

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, who last month inserted a no-litigation clause for any Wyoming wolf deal into a still-pending appropriations bill, praised Mead for reaching a deal over an issue that's been simmering since wolves were re-introduced by the federal government to the state in 1995.

"Today marks one more step in the considerable progress Wyoming has recently made in returning management of the fully recovered gray wolf to our own state experts," Lummis said in a media release. "For years, Wyoming has worked in good faith to produce and defend a wolf management plan. These labors have been difficult and, frankly, haven't produced results -- until today."

Republican Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi also lauded the deal, saying it was long overdue.

However, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., the top-ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, wrote Salazar today to "express grave concern" about the agreement. The minimum population standards in the deal would mean 40 percent of Wyoming's current estimated wolf population will die, he wrote, and suggested that the agreement was based on politics, not just science. "Science, not politics, should ensure the conservation and management [of] the gray wolves in Wyoming, should they be delisted," Markey wrote in the letter.

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