Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wyoming Takes Aim at Park Wolve

Flawed Wyoming wolf law up to Legislature to change, senator says.
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
January 11, 2012

A section of Wyoming’s wolf management plan that seems to allow wolf hunting in Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge has local and federal officials worried.
Under the pending management plan in front of the Legislature, wolves would be considered trophy game in the northwest corner of the state. Elsewhere in Wyoming, wolves would be hunted as predators, meaning they could be killed at any time, by any means, without a license.

While a map in the plan excludes Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation from the trophy game and predator areas, it includes Grand Teton National Park, the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway administered by the park and the National Elk Refuge in the trophy game management area.
Grand Teton Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott expressed her problems with the wolf plan late last year, Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, said.

“She had some real concerns about the plan as it describes the trophy area,” Christensen said. “She said there may be a perception that people can hunt here, and that it’s not consistent with the parks.”
The worries arise as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in its last days of accepting comments on a deal it forged with Wyoming to turn management of the species over to the state.

The state is striving to adopt a wolf law and Game and Fish plan that would mimic agreements made between Gov. Matt Mead and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
On the Wyoming front, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department presented a draft bill to the joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee during a meeting in Thermopolis just before Christmas, Christensen said.

A wolf strides across a pasture near Indian Trails subdivision Sunday as another wanders in the background.

Photo Courtesy Tim McClure

“We looked over the bill and ... it became apparent there were some changes that Wyoming Game and Fish Department felt like they needed,” he said.
State legislators and officials are working to exclude Grand Teton, the parkway and refuge from the wolf hunt, Christensen said.

“They’ve got language that would be introduced in session to deal with those areas,” he said. “It says the trophy areas would only be in areas of the state’s jurisdiction. It would clear up questions about the refuge, Grand Teton National Park, and I think it would clear up questions about [the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway].”
A 2008 version of Wyoming’s wolf management plan used a similar map, said Jackson resident Franz Camenzind, a wildlife biologist and former executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. But it included language that made it clear wolf hunting was not allowed on land managed by the Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“I’m frustrated with that change,” Camenzind said. “But I’m even more frustrated that the Department of Interior -— the Fish and Wildlife Service -— doesn’t challenge that. ... The Department of Interior has been emasculated. They’re not standing up for what the law says,” he said.

The inclusion of the park, refuge and parkway in the trophy game area might be intentional, Camenzind said.
“The state is always making attempts to manage wildlife on these particular lands,” Camenzind said. “They don’t have jurisdiction. Why should the public have to go to court to get a result that should have been straightforward in the first place?”
A wolf hunt on the National Elk Refuge is unlikely, refuge manager Steve Kallin said.

“We have the responsibility and authority to manage wildlife on the refuge,” he said. “At this time, we’re not proposing or even looking into a wolf hunt on the refuge.”
Local Park Service officials referred questions to the Intermountain Region office.

“We’re formulating our comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service right now,” said James Doyle, chief of communications for the Intermountain Region.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking scientific information and comments from the public about a proposed delisting rule and state management plan for Wyoming wolves. Comments must be received on or before Friday.