Thursday, October 6, 2011

Idaho leaders might seek changes if Wyoming wolf plan approved.

The Obama administration’s decision to propose delisting wolves in Wyoming will do more than just anger groups like Defenders of Wildlife.
The decision, announced Tuesday, would allow Wyoming to treat wolves like a pest over 90 percent of the state. If successful, the approach will make some leaders in Idaho and Montana consider rewriting their wolf plans to match Wyoming.
It’s a given that Defenders and other environmental groups will go to court to fight the agreement. They will argue that the Wyoming plan will not allow wolves to expand to other suitable habitat in other states.

Wolf and elk

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bowed to concerns of Teton County residents, those in the moderate bastion of Jackson Hole, to protect wolves from October through February in a small area when the younger wolves are dispersing from the packs. In Idaho and Montana, wolf plans say if wolves move into an area and don’t cause any trouble, they are allowed to live.
In this plan, Wyoming declares them as equals to mosquitoes in most of the state.
That will be attractive to Idaho lawmakers who both want more wolves killed and want to make it easier on ranchers. Unfortunately for them the area that could be considered unsuitable wolf habitat is much smaller in Idaho than it is in Wyoming.
I suspect a court might even challenge the Wyoming designation. For instance, should a national forest with a prey base be considered as unsuitable habitat for wolves?
But the road to delisting in Wyoming will undoubtedly lead to Congress just as it did for wolves in Idaho and Montana. It will face a higher bar though for two reasons: it’s a harder case and because there is no Democrat to carry the fight as Jon Tester did for Montana and Idaho.
But first it must past muster with the Wyoming Legislature and the plan as written is not assured of passage without changes.