Idaho Gov. Butch Otter joined Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a meeting this morning in Lakewood, Colo. to discuss the status of wolf management in the three states - a meeting Salazar called. Afterward, the secretary said he, the governors and Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland discussed “a path forward regarding the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population;” you can read our full story here at spokesman.com.
“The successful recovery of the gray wolf is a stunning example of how the Endangered Species Act can work to keep imperiled animals from sliding into extinction,” Salazar said in a statement after the gathering. “Today’s meeting was very constructive and I appreciate that the governors share our goal to delist the species with a responsible approach guided by science.”
Wolves were removed from endangered species protection in Idaho and Montana in 2009, but remained protected in Wyoming, where the state had no federally approved wolf management plan, and instead declared that wolves could be shot on sight in much of the state. A federal judge this year overturned the delisting decision, on grounds that it couldn’t address the same regional wolf population differently along state lines.
Strickland said, “There are many complexities involved in how we conduct the delisting. In today’s meeting we discussed how we move forward to both delist the wolf and provide appropriate protection in the future.”
Wyoming Gov. Freudenthal told the Associated Press after the meeting, “The frustration from both the governors and the secretary is that everybody recognizes that the (wolf) population is not only recovered, but it is robust. And why we can’t get to delisting, I think, is very frustrating for all of the people sitting around that table.” Freudenthal said Wyoming and the other states haven’t committed to anything. And while he emphasized that Wyoming is open to talking about changes in its tactics, he said it’s not willing to change its fundamental principle that it needs to be able to manage wolves as it sees fit outside the “recovery area.”