USA Today 2/1/06
Wolves may drop off endangered list
By Patrick O'Driscoll, USA TODAY
DENVER — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
will issue a proposal Thursday to remove gray
wolves in the northern Rockies from the
Endangered Species List, a decade after they
returned to the region.
Ed Bangs, head of the
government's wolf recovery program, said
Wednesday that the animals have recovered so
well that the agency is no longer equipped to
manage so many — about 1,000 gray wolves in
parts of six states.
The species was nearly
wiped out in the continental USA by westward
settlement. The population has soared since
biologists released 66 wolves from Canada in
Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in
1995-96. Another protected population of gray
wolves lives in northern Minnesota. The species
is not threatened in Alaska.
Bangs said the proposal
cannot go forward until Wyoming revises its plan
for managing the 225 wolves in the state once
protection is lifted. Wyoming's plan would allow
unlimited killing of wolves in areas outside the
northwest corner of the state. Bangs calls that
"unregulated human persecution."
Wyoming Gov. Dave
Freudenthal said the state does not intend to
change its plan. He said today's announcement is
"political blackmail" to pressure the state.
Plans in Idaho and Montana, where most of the
other wolves live, are in place.
Freudenthal said Bangs
"is simplifying the issue quite a bit." He said
federal officials refuse to take responsibility
for managing wolves in Yellowstone once they are
off the endangered list.
Last summer, Wyoming
petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to
remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species
The agency and
conservation groups, including Defenders of
Wildlife, consider the wolf's comeback one of
the biggest successes of the Endangered Species
Act. The 1973 law has helped save bald eagles
and other rare species.
Some of the groups are
skeptical the states are ready to manage the
"This is premature. This
would be a real tragedy," says Jamie Rappaport
Clark, former head of Fish and Wildlife and now
executive vice president of Defenders of
Wildlife. Her group and others also oppose
Idaho's plan as insufficient.
Wolves thrive in central
Idaho, where Bangs estimates 550 live. Ranchers,
hunters and groups such as the Idaho Anti-Wolf
Coalition contend that wolves kill wildlife,
livestock and pets.
Ron Gillett, the
coalition chairman, said the proposed delisting
is "a joke" because states still can't manage
the wolves "without checking with the feds
first." He said the group will file a proposed
ballot initiative in Idaho today pledging "to
get rid of the wolves."