Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Director Dan Ashe this week announced that USFWS has reached an agreement with the State of Wyoming that will result in revisions to the state's management plan for the gray wolf.
The agreement would create a dual-status management plan. Wolves in a zone in northwest Wyoming would receive protection under the "trophy game" designation. Outside of the zone, they would be treated as predators and could be freely hunted. Wyoming would be responsible for protecting 100 wolves, including 10 breeding pairs. That does not include the 60 wolves estimated to be living in Yellowstone National Park.
The management plan also creates a "flex zone" south of Snake River Canyon. This area, which is part of the wolves' migratory route from Wyoming to Idaho, would offer protection for the animals from Oct. 15 to March 1.
Once Wyoming incorporates the revisions into the wolf management plan, the Service will move forward with a proposed rule to delist the gray wolf in Wyoming. That proposed delisting rule will be subject to public and peer review as part of a formal rulemaking process, and a final determination to delist wolves in Wyoming and return management of the species to the State will be dependent upon corresponding changes also being made to Wyoming state statutes and regulations. Until a final determination to delist gray wolves is published, wolves in Wyoming will remain fully protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population is biologically recovered, with more than 1,650 wolves and over 110 breeding pairs. It has exceeded recovery goals for 11 consecutive years, fully occupies nearly all suitable habitat and has high levels of genetic diversity and gene flow within the region's meta-population structure. Under state management, the Service expects the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population will be maintained above recovery levels and no longer faces a risk of extinction.
Reprinted in part from USFWS and WyomingNews.com