By Ruffin Prevost
CODY, WYO. — In a move that comes as no surprise in the long-running dispute over management of gray wolves in the greater Yellowstone area, a number of environmental groups announced on Monday their intent to sue to block Wyoming’s wolf management plan.
WildEarth Guardians and other groups have notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of their intent to sue the agency over its decision last month to remove wolves in Wyoming from the endangered species list, according to a statement released by WildEarth Guardians.
The reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park in 1995 has remained a contentious issue in the northern Rockies—especially in Wyoming communities close to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The animals have since multiplied and spread to communities across the region that lie far outside the park’s boundaries.
Last month, federal wildlife managers cited robust numbers of wolves across Wyoming as sufficient reason to return management control over wolves in the state to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The state’s dual approach of treating wolves as regulated trophy game in the greater Yellowstone area and as a predator with no protections across most of the state has sparked outrage among wolf advocates.
“Wolves belong to all Americans, but powerful industry lobbyists and their political cronies don’t agree,” said Wendy Keefover of WildEarth Guardians. “The anti-wolf minority wants to kill as many wolves as possible before we can get to the courthouse, and the Fish and Wildlife Service is completely complicit in this terrible arrangement.”
State and federal wildlife managers have long maintained that wolves have met or exceeded recovery goals in their prime habitat areas around Yellowstone. Wyoming officials want to allow tightly managed hunting of wolves near Yellowstone to help control problems like livestock predation or other conflicts in more heavily populated areas. Outside the greater Yellowstone area in Wyoming, wolves are considered predators and may be shot without a permit for any reason—or no reason—under the state’s plan.
Wolf advocates say populations are vulnerable to a number of risks ranging from disease to habitat loss and fragmentation, the animals should not yet be hunted, and that their numbers should be maintained at higher levels than state and federal targets require.
Concerns about livestock losses to wolves are overblown by Wyoming’s agricultural industry, say opponents of the state’s wolf plan.
Wyoming wildlife managers say they are taking a cautious and conservative approach to wolf hunting, which is set to begin Oct. 1 and will allow up to 52 wolves to be hunted in the trophy game area in the northwestern corner of the state. Wolf hunting will not be allowed in Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].