Friday, April 27, 2012

Wolf regulations pass in Wyoming, move to feds

Thursday, April 26, 2012

One of the most contentious animals in Wyoming moved one step closer to being hunted, with very little fanfare.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission on Wednesday approved a hunting season for wolves that would begin Oct. 1, if the animals are removed from the endangered species list. It also approved rules on how to manage the wolves in and outside of the hunt areas. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could decide on the listing by Oct. 1.

The plan would allow 52 wolves to be harvested this fall in northwest Wyoming. It also would create three types of management areas:

A trophy game management area that would be most of northwest Wyoming outside of federal lands such as Yellowstone National Park. Here wolves could only be hunted according to hunting regulations.

A seasonal trophy game management area in northern Lincoln and Sublette counties where wolves would be trophy animals from Oct. 15 to the end of February. The rest of the year they would be predators similar to the rest of the state.

A predator area, which would be all of the state outside of northwest Wyoming and the Wind River Indian Reservation where wolves would be classified like coyotes.

Rick Kahn, a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service, wants the commission to consider creating smaller hunt areas around Grand Teton National Park if the packs that live in the park are facing too much hunting pressure. It’s not something the commission needs to change right now, but something it can consider in the future, he said.

Some questioned the requirement to report a wolf kill in the hunting area within 24 hours to the statewide hotline instead of the standard 72 hours for other trophy carnivores.

Officials chose 24 hours because they were not sure how many and how early wolves would be killed, said Mark Bruscino, large carnivore management section supervisor with the Game and Fish Department. That time frame could be changed in the future.

Representatives from some groups, including the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said they supported the plan.

The management plan now rests with the Interior Department.
Gov. Matt Mead said he expects the department to publish a final rule by Oct. 1, in time for the fall hunting season.

The biggest threat to the wolf plan now is likely the prospect of lawsuits by environmental groups claiming the deal would decimate Wyoming’s wolf population to the point that it’s no longer viable.
U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., tried in vain last year to insert a clause in an Interior appropriations bill to ban any legal challenges to the wolf deal. Congress passed a similar clause in a budget bill last year to prohibit lawsuits against wolf delistings in five other Western states.

Mead said Wednesday at a media conference in Cheyenne that he and Wyoming’s congressional delegation are working to try again for a Wyoming no-sue clause, though he said he wasn’t yet sure if they would draw up another budget clause or introduce stand-alone legislation.

Mead urged environmental groups to think twice about suing, saying they should recognize that the plan is scientifically sound, has been agreed to by top Interior officials, and has been worked on for more than a year with input from a wide variety of groups.

“It is not just something that we came up with that is just good for Wyoming,” Mead said. “It’s an agreement by a lot of parties who have worked on it.”