15 August 2011

Federal protections may end for gray wolves in Wyoming

Just like sharks, wolves are a necessary and beautiful part of their respective ecosystem. And, just like sharks, wolves are demonized in every way possible by the people who fear and fail to understand them.

Now, thanks to a tentative agreement made by Wyoming state Governor Matt Mead and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, federal protections may end for gray wolves in Wyoming, allowing individuals the possibility to shoot them on sight in most of the state.

Many feel the agreement is politically, not scientifically, driven, and environmentalists have argued that it offers gray wolves almost no protection. It would also make Wyoming the only state where people could shoot wolves in most of the state year-round without a license.

"We do think that it's important that wolf management decisions be based on science, and not on these kind of closed-door political negotiations," said Collette Adkins Giese, a lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity in Minnesota.

In a twisted way of reasoning, Salazar inexplicably argued that this move speaks to the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act.

"The agreement we've reached with Wyoming recognizes the success of this iconic species and will ensure the long-term conservation of gray wolves," Salazar said.

Under the agreement, Wyoming would maintain at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside Yellowstone National Park. There are now around 230 outside the park and 340 wolves in the state. Wolves immediately outside the park would be subject to regulated hunting in a zone that would expand slightly in the winter months to give wolves more protection in an area south of Jackson, while those in the rest of the state would be classified as predators that could be shot on sight.

Steve Ferrell, Mead's policy advisor, said the federal government plans to propose a draft delisting wolves rule by Oct. 1, and that it could take a year for the final rule to be approved to allow Wyoming to take over wolf management. The Wyoming Legislature will consider changes to the state's current wolf management plan when it meets early next year.

Opponents to the delisting and to the agreement argue that the fact that those involved want the agreement shielded from legal review makes it obvious that it's more about politics than the best interests of the wolves, the environment or science.

"It says that Wyoming and certainly our congressional representatives, they know that this plan is not legally or biologically sufficient," said Wyoming wildlife advocate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition Chris Colligan.

Stephanie DeBalko | @_stephanied_
Stephanie is a freelance writer who loves shelter dogs and Vegenaise. She recently came to the conclusion that the written word could be an amazing ally for all animals, and is choosing to use her nerdy love of grammar and punctuation for the greater good of animal welfare. She can also be found at I Hope Vodka Is Vegan.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/bradwilke