Friday, December 10, 2010

Wolf Politics and the Endangered Species 'End Run'

Negotiations between the Interior Department and the governors of three western states—Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming—to remove the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the federal endangered species list hit a stumbling block this week but aren't necessarily over. Idaho's Governor C. L. "Butch" Otter has stated on his Web site that his state will continue "to focus on a path forward on delisting—whether that is through Congress or via the courts." And Wyoming's Governor David Freudenthal said the discussions will help the three states develop a "road map" to get the wolves off the list, which would allow them to be managed by the states' wildlife agencies, and hunted. Indeed, bills to accomplish the same thing are stacking up in congressional committees as fast as fur pelts in a 19th century wolf bounty hunter's cabin. Most would declare that the region's wolf population, which currently numbers 1700, has recovered and no longer needs federal protection. But at least one proposal by Utah's Representative Rob Bishop (R), the State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act, would remove federal protection for wolves in all states, including those where wolves have yet to roam. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has met with the western governors but has not officially embraced any of the bills. However, Salazar's assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, Thomas Strickland, confirmed in a recent press conference that the Obama Administration will continue to seek some type of congressional action to downlist the wolves. Downlisting means that management of the wolves would be turned over to the states' wildlife agencies...more

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