Conservation groups get some 44,000 signatures opposing wolf plan.
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
January 18, 2012
Regional National Park Service officials say they would consider wolf hunting in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway if the hunt would help the state meet its management goals.
In 1.5 pages of comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dated Jan. 10, John Wessels, Intermountain Region regional director, said wolf hunting in the parkway isn’t ideal.
“NPS preference is to not allow wolf hunting within the boundaries of the parkway, particularly if the state can reach wolf management goals outside the boundaries of the parkway,” Wessels says in the letter. “However, NPS recognizes the need for consultation with the state and will coordinate to reach wolf management goals.
The 24,000-acre parkway lies between Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. The Park Service assumed jurisdiction in 1972, and it is now administered by Grand Teton.
Hunting in the parkway is allowed for big game, including elk, and for waterfowl, among other wildlife. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has proposed regulations that would allow wolf hunting in the parkway.
“If wolf management goals cannot be met outside of the parkway, further consultation will occur while the NPS considers all options within its authority,” Wessels’ letter says.
Wessels said it is important to distinguish between Grand Teton National Park, where wolf hunting would be prohibited, and the parkway, where hunting is allowed in the parkway’s enabling legislation.
Grand Teton’s enabling legislation does allow an elk reduction hunt, but all other forms of hunting are prohibited.
Law is different for parkway
The 1972 legislation establishing the parkway states that the secretary of the interior “shall permit hunting and fishing within the area described ... in accordance with the applicable laws of the United States and the state of Wyoming, except that the secretary may designate zones where, and periods when, no hunting or fishing shall be permitted for reasons of public safety, administration or public use and enjoyment.
“Except in emergencies, any regulations of the secretary pursuant to this section shall be put into effect only after consultation with the appropriate state fish and game department,” the legislation says.
In their comments, regional officials expressed support the removing wolves from Endangered Species Act protection.
“The National Park Service concurs with the FWS analysis of wolf demography and distribution, review of threats to the population and conclusions reached regarding the ability of the rule and Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan to ensure a viable population of wolves with adequate gene flow,” Wessels said in the comments.
“NPS agrees that wolves in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, two distinct National Park Service units, should be counted toward the population goals described in the plan and proposed rule.”
While a map in Wyoming’s wolf management plan excludes Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation from the trophy game and predator areas, the map does include Grand Teton National Park, the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway and the National Elk Refuge in the management area.
State Sen. Leland Christensen said last week that Superintendent Scott expressed worries about the trophy game area described in the wolf plan late last year.
State legislators and state officials are working to include language in a state bill dealing with the wolf plan that would exclude the federally managed areas from the wolf hunt, with the possible exception of the parkway, Christensen said.
In a Sept. 6 letter to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Scott said she worries that hunting and state control of the wolves in the trophy game area might hurt wolves that spend part of the year inside park boundaries.
In particular, Scott said she was worried about Grand Teton wolves that move to the Gros Ventre drainage during the winter when the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is feeding elk on one or more feedgrounds there.
Bad for wolf population?
Conservation groups also criticized the federal plan. Combined, supporters of Earthjustice and Defenders of Wildlife submitted more than 44,000 comments opposing the removal of Wyoming’s wolves from Endangered Species Act protection, according to the federal government’s website at www.regulations.gov.
State management of Wyoming wolves “will endanger wolves by reducing their population below sustainable levels and inhibiting genetic exchange,” said Doug Honnold and Jenny Harbine, attorneys in Earthjustice’s Bozeman, Mont., office.
The Fish and Wildlife Service “has failed to garner commitments from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming that future state management will conserve a recovered wolf population,” Honnold and Harbine said in comments dated Jan. 12. “In particular, FWS’ compromise with Wyoming leaves wolves subject to predator status throughout the vast majority of the state — a situation FWS previously found to endanger wolves.”
Jackson resident Franz Camezind, former executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, agreed that Wyoming’s predator zone puts the wolf population in danger.
“With the current proposal, only about 14 percent of the state is designated Wolf Trophy Game Management Area with regulated hunting part of the year and protection for the remainder of the year,” Camenzind said. “In the remaining 86 percent of the state, wolves are classified as predators that can be killed on-sight, by nearly any means, at any time and by anyone.
This dual classification “has no scientific basis,” Camenzind said. “All of Wyoming should be designated as Wolf Trophy Game Management Area before delisting occurs.”
Others expressed support for state management of Wyoming wolves.
“I believe there needs to be managed populations of gray wolves in the country,” said Keith Swope, of Ahwahnee, Calif. “However, I do not believe they should be allowed to run rampant, destroying elk and deer herds that sportsman have worked so hard to bring back.
Swope also said wolves should not be allowed under any circumstances to threaten livestock.
Wyoming residents should be allowed to manage their own wildlife, said Philip Beck, of Milton, Ga. “I am concerned about the adverse effect wolves are causing to the elk, moose and deer resources of this state.”
Members of Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife did not immediately return calls to provide comments.