|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
January 13, 2004
Contact: Ed Bangs 406-449-5225x204
FWS IDENTIFIES STEPS NEEDED TO DELIST GRAY WOLF;
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today the process to delist the western population of gray wolves can begin once Wyoming approves key changes to state law and its wolf management plan. At the same time, the Service announced that wolf management plans developed by Idaho and Montana are adequate to maintain the population of gray wolves above established recovery goals.
The review of each state’s management plans included peer review by 11 national wolf experts and state responses to those peer review comments. The Service’s responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act include ensuring that adequate management controls are in place to maintain population levels above recovery goals. Even with approval of the plans developed by Idaho and Montana, delisting cannot at this time be proposed because of significant concerns about Wyoming’s existing state law as well as its wolf management plan. Wolves in the three states are part of the same Distinct Population Segment and delisting occurs by population segment, not by state boundaries.
"We must follow the biology and we are making progress on this issue working together with our partners," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams. "Delisting can move forward as soon as Wyoming makes the changes we’ve identified to both its state law and its wolf management plan, but not until then because these wolves are part of one distinct population segment."
The Service released letters sent to all three states announcing the status of their state wolf management plans and what needs to happen before the delisting process can move forward.
Specifically, Wyoming must adequately address each of the following three concerns of the Service in order to provide greater assurance that management controls are in place to maintain population levels above recovery goals:
(1) Wyoming’s predatory animal status for wolves must be changed. The designation of wolves as "trophy game" statewide would allow Wyoming to devise a management strategy that provides for self-sustaining populations above recovery goals, regulated harvest and adequate monitoring of that harvest.
(2) The Wyoming state law must clearly commit to managing for at least 15 wolf packs in Wyoming.
(3) The Wyoming definition of a pack must be consistent among the three states and should be biologically based. The three states are currently collaborating on the criteria that defines a wolf pack.
If requested, the Service will provide guidance to the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish in developing these three changes.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Services manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which includes 542 wildlife refuges and thousands small wetlands, waterfowl production areas, and other special management areas. It operates 69 national fish hatcheries and 64 fishery resource centers. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and assists foreign governments with their conservation efforts. The Service also manages the Federal Aid program, which distributes more than $500 million generated from excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies for conservation. For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service please visit http://www.fws.gov.
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