Wyoming Legislature update: Wolf Management
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
August 17, 2015
Monday, August 17, 2015
Hello Sublette County,
On August 11, I attended the Joint Travel, Recreation, and Wildlife (TRW) meeting in Kemmerer. An update on wolf management was on the agenda, and I was one of the presenters at the meeting. In the last year, wolves were relisted as an endangered species by a federal court in Washington D.C., and the responsibility for wolf management moved from the states back to the federal government. Wolf numbers far exceed recovery goals, but the D.C. judge declared Wyoming’s Wolf Plan did not have adequate regulatory mechanisms in place to guarantee continued wolf recovery. Wyoming’s plan was a policy put in place by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, but the judge felt it did not have the same force and effect as law. Subsequently, the Commission told the judge it would put the plan through formal rule making, which has a public comment component. However, the judge would not rescind the order, and now the United State Fish and Wildlife Service is moving to appeal that decision, as it believes Wyoming’s Wolf Plan is sufficient.
This spring, Wildlife Services, the federal agency responsible for managing problem wildlife, e-mailed me to say they were concerned there was not enough federal money available for wolf conflict management. The federal court decision had caught both Wildlife Services and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) off-guard, and they both were scrambling for money. The State of Wyoming had set aside money for wolf management and monitoring, but without management authority they were not interested in paying for management. I support Wyoming’s decision not to fund wolf management, without management authority. Wyoming does pay livestock producers compensation for wolf depredation in those areas where it has designated the wolf as a trophy game species. Without this compensation livestock producers, in areas like the Upper Green, would have far less tolerance for large carnivore management, or ability to continue ranching. With the feds appearing to have no money for wolf management, I asked the TRW Committee to put wolf management on its agenda.
However, as the summer has unfolded, Wildlife Services and USFWS have indeed found the manpower and money to provide management dollars for wolves depredating cattle and for wolf monitoring. Mike Jimenez, wolf coordinator for the USFWS, told me this spring he would not leave livestock producers unassisted in the face of wolf predation, and he has been good to his word. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wildlife Services, and USFWS are a very cohesive and effective team in responding to both wolf and grizzly depredation of livestock, though there are areas in the high Winds where large predator management is difficult.
Wyoming’s Congressional delegation sent a representative from Washington to the meeting, and he stated that Lummis, Enzi, and Barrassoare working to secure funding for wolf management at the federal level. The representative further stated: "To solve the underlying issue, the Wyoming congressional delegation has secured in the FY2016 House and Senate Interior Appropriations bills bipartisan legislative language directing the USFWS to reinstate the 2012 rule delisting the wolf in Wyoming and approving Wyoming’s management plan. The language would also shield the rule from judicial review. Because litigation has put the Western Great Lakes wolf population in a similar situation, we have a bipartisan coalition from those states in support of this language, which would reinstate state wolf plans in that area of the country as well."
I requested that the TRW committee send a letter to our Congressional delegation asking them to seek federal funding for wolf and grizzly bear management, and to seek delisting of both species, which have far exceeded their recovery criteria. A motion was made and passed for legislative staff to work with me on drafting such a letter.