Feds reject Wyoming’s concerns about wolves, wildlife
CHEYENNE, Wyo. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected a proposal from Wyoming officials to allow the state to kill some wolves to keep them from depleting the state’s elk herds.In a letter delivered to Senate President John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, and House Speaker Roy Cohee, R-Casper, on Friday, Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall states that the federal government is not willing to enter into an agreement with the state that would allow it to kill wolves.Cohee said Friday he’s deeply disappointed in the federal decision. He said it means that wolf management legislation that’s moving through both houses of the Wyoming Legislature this session won’t have any effect.”It’s incredibly disappointing, particularly to people in the livestock industry,” Cohee said. “But it should be disappointing to all people in Wyoming in regard to their natural wildlife resources.”The Fish and Wildlife Service last year proposed creation of a permanent wolf management area in northwestern Wyoming. The agency last month announced a proposal to remove Rocky Mountain gray wolves from the endangered species list in Wyoming as well as Montana and Idaho. Although the federal agency has approved wolf management plans in Montana and Idaho, it rejected Wyoming’s original management plan in 2004.Top Wyoming officials have suggested that the federal government enter an agreement with the state that would allow the state to kill some wolves to keep them from depleting state elk herds.In his letter to the state, Hall writes: “While I agree that wolves are impacting wildlife populations, after seeking advice from legal counsel, we do not believe we can mutually reach a settlement of the pending litigation that would necessarily ensure the type of substantive relief that is being sought.”Instead, Hall wrote that he believes the best option for dealing with wolves in Wyoming is to proceed with the process of taking the animal off the federal threatened and endangered species list.Mitch King, regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said Friday that Hall’s letter is the federal government’s last word on the state’s proposal.”I think what the letter is telling the state is that the Fish and Wildlife Service has gone as far as we can possibly go on this,” King said.Gov. Dave Freudenthal has joined legislative leaders in expressing concern that proceeding to take wolves off the threatened and endangered species list without an agreement to protect the state’s wildlife herds over the next few years would be devastating to the state.The governor has said he expects there would be a period of perhaps a few years between the time the wolves are removed from the list and the time that litigation over the issue is resolved and the state takes over wolf management.Rob Black, spokesman for Freudenthal, said Friday that the governor would have a statement on Hall’s letter on Friday afternoon.King said his agency still hopes that Wyoming will consider accepting the federal proposal.”At some point Wyoming has to just move ahead and try to deal with the wolf issue,” King said. “I certainly sympathize with Wyoming hunters and the impacts that wolves are having on the elk population.”
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