September 5, 2010 in Outdoors

Wyoming not apologetic for thwarting wolf plans

Ben Neary Associated Press
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Background and the latest updates

Defenders stop paying for wolf kills

 The Defenders of Wildlife will end its groundbreaking program to compensate ranchers for livestock losses on Friday.

 The private program has paid more than $1.4 million for losses from wolves and grizzly bears since it was started in 1987 to show the group’s backing for wolf reintroduction.

 Defenders said then it would continue the program until the predators were no longer protected as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

 Since the program began, Idaho ranchers have been paid about $433,000.

 But in a letter this month to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Defenders President Rodger Schlickeisen said when the program was launched “we planned to compensate ranchers for verified livestock losses to wolves until state, federal or tribal programs took its place.

 “We’ve honored that commitment and have continued to pay compensation across the Northern Rockies and Southwest,” he said.

 The group hopes to spend the money on its programs aimed at helping ranchers better prevent wolf predation in the first place.

 Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Cal Groen said Monday he remembers a different promise - to pay ranchers until wolves were no longer protected at all - and that the group was backing out of yet another commitment it had made when wolves were reintroduced to Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in 1995.

 Ranchers may still be compensated for their losses, but at a lesser level and and at taxpayer expense.

 Groen, speaking to the Boise City Club and the Idaho Environmental Forum Monday, said Defenders had gone along with the recovery goal of 30 pairs of wolves in 1995 when they were reintroduced from Canada.

 But now they are arguing that as many as 2,000 to 5,000 are needed, extending the length of time and amount of compensation money required.

 “The goal posts keep changing and that’s extremely frustrating,” Groen said.

Idaho Statesman

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Wyoming remains committed to classifying gray wolves as predators that can be shot on sight across most of the state despite complaints that its position will stop hunting seasons in neighboring Idaho and Montana.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula in August rejected the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s move to turn over wolf management to Idaho and Montana while leaving them listed as an endangered species in Wyoming.

Molloy’s decision blocks wolf hunts that Idaho and Montana had planned for this fall.

Ironically, Molloy’s decision also effectively leaves Wyoming – whose wolf management plan the judge excoriated two years ago – in the position of controlling wolf management in the entire Northern Rockies, at least for now.

Wyoming has stubbornly opposed the federal wolf reintroduction effort since it began at Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s.

But now, unless Wyoming backs off on its plan to declare an open season for wolves in most of the state, the other states won’t get to hold the controlled wolf hunts they want to protect livestock and keep their wolf populations steady.

And Wyoming is not about to agree to change its plan.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a popular Democrat in the final months of his second and final term, said this week that Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter haven’t bothered to ask him whether Wyoming intends to reconsider.

“It may be that they’ve known me long enough that I’m not going to change my position,” Freudenthal said.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Interior Tom Strickland wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “If Wyoming were to join its neighbor states and develop a wolf management strategy with adequate regulatory mechanisms on human-caused wolf mortality, including hunting, all three states would benefit.”

Frustration over Wyoming’s position is also widespread in Idaho and Montana.

Montana wolf program biologist Carolyn Sime said residents in her state believe they did everything right, and are frustrated that Wyoming can hold them back.

“It does not make sense for us that the actions and wishes of another state prevent something in our state,” Sime said. “Wyoming’s past prevents Montana from moving forward. That doesn’t seem fair to us.”

Idaho and Montana appealed to the federal government this week for permission to hold “conservation hunts” to help control wolves.

Wyoming has a federal lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to delist wolves in the state.

Wyoming officials say their plan would assure enough wolves survive to maintain at least 15 breeding pairs and 150 total wolves in the state — the minimum number the Fish and Wildlife Service says each of the three states needs to maintain.

More than 1,700 wolves inhabit Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and parts of Oregon and Washington state.

There’s little desire among Wyoming lawmakers to change the state’s wolf management plan. Many openly say they don’t trust the federal wildlife agency.

Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, of the Senate wildlife issues panel, said the state should feel no pressure to change its position until its own lawsuit is settled.

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