July 8, 2011
Wyoming and the federal government have reached "an agreement in principle" on a deal to remove the state's roughly 340 wolves from the endangered species list and put them under state control.
Following a meeting at the Wyoming State Capitol on Thursday, Gov. Matt Mead, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Director Dan Ashe said they hoped to reach a deal by the end of the month and ratify it by the end of September.
Wyoming has been fighting the USFWS for years to accept the state's wolf management plan, which allows unregulated killing of the animals in all but the northwest corner of the state. The USFWS, on the other hand, wants wolves to be classified as "trophy game" throughout the state, meaning they could only be hunted with a license.
The three said they agreed on a deal under which Wyoming would be required to maintain 100 wolves, including 10 breeding pairs, outside Yellowstone National Park. That's about a third of current wolf numbers outside Yellowstone, Mead said.
They also agreed in principle on creating a wolf "flex area" in Sublette and Lincoln counties, in which wolves would be protected only during the winter months. Working out the "flex area" boundaries will be the primary sticking point remaining in negotiations, Mead said. Mead also said he will shop around two different flex-area boundary proposals to stakeholders, including ranchers and agricultural groups that have long opposed wolves.
In April, Congress voted to delist wolves in five other western states, though not Wyoming.
Reprinted in part from the Casper Star-Tribune