Wolves have been a problem out west for some years. First there were wolves, then there were none. In 1996, wolves were reintroduced to the Rocky Mountains (see photo). They did remarkably well.
In states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, there have seemed, of late, to be plenty of wolves. Environmentalists weren’t so sure about this, but the US Federal government largely agreed. But courts had overturned an attempt by the feds to take the wolves off the endangered species list. So legislators began to attempt to delist the wolf by passing special bills and battles over delisting raged in the courts (see our recent story). So states have been unable to cull wolves or set up hunting seasons.
Now the Federal agency that runs the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service, has announced that they have struck a deal with environmental groups including Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council. If the courts agree, Idaho and Montana will be able to manage their own wolves while they wait for Rocky Mountain wolves to be delisted, and green groups promise to refrain from any more lawsuits on the matter.
Wyoming is a separate case; they have always been the fly in the ointment on delisting because they promised that as soon as wolves came off the endangered species list, they would allow their citizens to shoot them on sight—a management plan not guaranteed to keep wolves from going locally extinct again. Negotiations continue and the feds won’t try to delist the wolf until they get a more nuanced management plan out of Wyoming.
Wolves in other states are unaffected.
The ten environmental groups released a joint statement, which read, in part, “In return for allowing the states of Montana and Idaho to manage wolves according to approved conservation plans, the Department of the Interior agrees to conduct rigorous scientific monitoring of wolf populations across the region and an independent scientific review by an expert advisory board after three years … The settlement offers a workable solution to the increasingly polarized debate over wolves.”