WY Phibbs to lobby Governor Again on Wolves
Commissioner doesn’t want predator zone in county; mayor supports Mead’s plan.
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 3, 2011
County commissioners will make a final appeal to Gov. Matt Mead to keep wolves from being killed as predators in Teton County should the state strike a deal with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
County Commissioner Hank Phibbs is expected to travel to Cheyenne today for a meeting with Mead.
Phibbs will ask the governor to consider moving the boundary of the state’s predator zone, an area encompassing all but the northwest corner of the state where wolves could be killed by any means, at any time, without a license.
“I want to explore if there’s any opportunity” to move the predator zone out of Teton County, Phibbs said Tuesday.
He thanked Mead for taking time out of his busy schedule.
The southern boundary of the predator zone currently heads west from the Bridger-Teton National Forest boundary in Sublette County up Highway 26/89/191 past Hoback Junction, and then along Highway 22 to the Idaho border. Parts of Teton County would be in the predator zone.
In a pending deal with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that southern boundary would move south for a couple of months in the winter to an as yet undetermined location to allow dispersing wolves to move into Idaho.
Even then, parts of Teton County would be in the predator zone.
Phibbs said the Wyoming Legislature drew the boundary in 2003. If a deal is struck between the state and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Legislature would have to approve it.
That approval process gives Teton County and the Legislature “an ideal opportunity to re-examine the question of the wolf boundary location,” Phibbs said.
“It is both timely and it’s something I feel the Legislature would do as part of a settlement,” he said.
The consensus among most Teton County residents is that wolves are welcome, Phibbs said. The predators are a component of the county’s tourist-based economy.
“[My opinion] is founded not only in the public comments I have gotten, but also the recent comprehensive plan that established wildlife as the No. 1 value in our community,” he said. “It becomes a mixed signal if we declare war on wolves south of Highway 22 and west of Highway 89.”
Wilson resident Ann Harvey said she disapproves of having wolves killed as predators in Teton County. Harvey lives on the north side of Highway 22, but owns land south of the highway.
“An an ecologist, I don’t think we should be throwing down an arbitrary line and letting wolves be freely shot on one side,” she said.
Harvey also said she’s concerned that wolves would be hunted in the forest where she likes to wander, creating a potentially dangerous situation.
State Rep. Jim Roscoe echoed Phibb’s comments in a letter to Mead this week.
“Having looked at the lines on the proposed plan and talked with Teton County electeds, I think a small adjustment in the lines would help this plan,” Roscoe said. “Changing the predator status demarcation line to the southern Teton County line would greatly benefit Teton County, not be objectionable to Sublette or Lincoln County, and not in any measurable way affect the good wolf management plan that is being presented.
“I believe it could be a win-win change,” he said. “It would allow Teton County to advertise their wildlife friendly county to the world and still strongly manage Wyoming wolves in Sublette and Lincoln [counties].”
Not all elected officials in Teton County oppose the current plan. Jackson Mayor Mark Barron said he supports the boundary where it is.
“The wolves don’t know where the county lines are,” Barron said Tuesday. “I trust the knowledge and wisdom of Wyoming Game and Fish. The governor has put in a lot of work on this. I agree with his decision.”
That wolves have had an impact on ungulate populations is “undeniable,” Barron said.
“I strongly embrace having wolves in the Yellowstone ecosystem, and I believe the governor does as well,” he said.
Last week, Mead’s spokesman, Renny Mackay, said it’s too late to move the predator zone out of Teton County.
Mead and the federal government are close to a deal, he said Tuesday.
“Any day now, we’re hoping to wrap things up and have the proposed plan that the state of Wyoming and the Fish and Wildlife Service have agreed on,” Mackay said.