|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
Division of Public Affairs
February 2, 2006
SERVICE ANNOUNCES INTENT TO REMOVE THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN POPULATION OF GRAY WOLVES FROM ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that outlines the agency’s intent to remove gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains from the Federal list of threatened and endangered species.
The advance notice of proposed rulemaking is being issued in order to give the public time to review and comment on the Service’s proposed strategy of designating and proposing to delist a distinct population segment (DPS) of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains that have exceeded biological recovery goals and no longer require protection under the Endangered Species Act. As part of a future rulemaking, the Service intends to propose establishing a gray wolf DPS, encompassing the geographic boundary of all of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the eastern third of Washington and Oregon, and a small part of north-central Utah.
If this advanced notice of proposed rulemaking were implemented, wolves outside the boundaries of the DPS in other parts of the country would continue to be listed as endangered, except for the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico, which is listed as an experimental, non-essential population. The Service anticipates publishing a proposal to establish and delist a Great Lakes DPS of gray wolves, which has also exceeded its recovery goals, in the near future.
In making the announcement, Service Director H. Dale Hall emphasized that any future rulemaking on a delisting decision for Rocky Mountain wolves is still contingent on the State of Wyoming implementing a Service-approved state law and wolf management plan, as required under the Endangered Species Act.
“Gray wolves in the Northern Rockies have exceeded their recovery goals and are biologically ready to be delisted,” Hall said. “However, the potential delisting cannot be finalized until Wyoming’s wolf management plan has been approved. We are hopeful that Wyoming will be able to develop a state law and management plan which meets the Service’s criteria for approval.”
The Service has worked in partnership with state and local governments, Indian tribes, other federal agencies, conservation organizations and private landowners to manage wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and reduce or eliminate threats to their populations. The wolf population has flourished there, exceeding recovery goals each year since 2002.
The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves for three consecutive years, a goal that was attained in 2002. The most recent official population counts in 2004 found that Montana had 15 breeding pairs and approximately 153 wolves; Wyoming had 24 breeding pairs and approximately 260 wolves; and Idaho had 27 breeding pairs and 422 wolves. Official population estimates for 2005 are not yet available but are expected to be slightly higher than last year.
Wolves dispersed naturally from Canada into northwestern Montana in the early 1980s. In 1995 and 1996, the Service reintroduced wolves from southwestern Canada to remote public lands in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. These wolves were classified as nonessential experimental populations under section 10(j) of the ESA to increase management flexibility and address local and State concerns. Natural dispersal coupled with reintroductions and the accompanying management programs greatly expanded the numbers and distribution of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.
If the northern Rocky Mountain DPS is delisted in future rules, the individual states and Tribes will resume sole management of wolves within their respective boundaries. Montana and Idaho have adopted state laws and wolf management plans, approved by the Service, to conserve their share of a recovered northern Rocky Mountain wolf population into the foreseeable future. Wyoming’s law and its wolf management plan have not been approved by the Service.
Consistent with regulatory requirements, the Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have previously transferred much of the Federal management responsibilities to the States of Montana and Idaho. The two States now implement control actions for problem wolves, monitor wolf packs, coordinate research, conduct public information programs and take wolves for scientific and other purposes in accordance with federal regulations.
Important elements of the Idaho and Montana management frameworks are adequate regulatory mechanisms to manage the human take of wolves, consistent definitions of a “pack,” and agreement to manage for 15 packs in each state.
Wyoming’s state law and wolf management plan have not been approved by the Service in part because Wyoming’s law defines wolves as a “predatory animal,” which means that wolves can be killed at any time, by anyone, without limit, and by any means except poisoning. Concerns regarding Wyoming state law and its plan must be resolved before the northern Rocky Mountain DPS proposed delisting regulation can progress.
The Service reclassified gray wolf populations in 2003 from endangered to threatened for much of the species’ current range in the United States and proposed to delist the eastern population of wolves in 2004. Both the reclassification and the proposed delisting were overturned by Federal courts last year. The Service continues to believe reclassification is both biologically and legally sound. The advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for anticipated delisting seeks to comply with the courts’ rulings, while recognizing, as the courts did, that the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes wolf populations have reached the recovery goals necessary for delisting.
Comments from the public on the Service’s intent to propose to establish a distinct population segment and to delist the wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains should be mailed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601. Comments are required to be submitted by close of business 60 days after the Federal Register publication date.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov.
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for
Summary: The wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) has exceeded its biological recovery goal every year since 2002 and no longer meets the biological criteria to be listed as an endangered or threatened species. The Service is announcing an advanced notice of rulemaking proposing to establish a NRM wolf distinct population segment (DPS) encompassing the biological NRM wolf population and a buffer zone of about 120-180 miles where continued wolf dispersal is highly likely. With the exception of inadequate state regulations to control excessive human-caused mortality outside of the National Parks in Wyoming, all the threats to the wolf population have been addressed. The purpose of the advance notice of proposed rulemaking is to solicit written comments from the public on the Service’s intent to delist a distinct population segment (DPS) of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains that have met their recovery goals. The Service currently intends to propose delisting only after the Wyoming state law and plan are modified and can be approved by the Director of the FWS.
Q- Why is the Service announcing an advance
notice of proposed rulemaking at this time?
The purpose of the advance notice of proposed rulemaking is to solicit public comments and input on the Service’s intent to delist a distinct population segment (DPS) of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains that have met their recovery goals and no longer require protection under the Endangered Species Act. As part of the future rulemaking, the Service intends to propose to establish a gray wolf DPS encompassing the geographic boundary of all of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the eastern third of Washington and Oregon, and a small part of north-central Utah.
Q – Why does the Service intend to propose to
delist the northern Rocky Mountain population of wolves?
Q -Hasn’t the Service already proposed to
reclassify and delist wolves?
The delisting proposal and the reclassification were challenged in Federal courts last year, and both actions were overturned, citing concerns about how the DPS boundaries were drawn and provisions for public comment between the draft and final rules. This proposal is an attempt to comply with the courts’ rulings while recognizing, as the courts did, that wolf populations in the northern Rocky Mountains have achieved the criteria for delisting established by their peer-reviewed recovery plan.
Q- What is a Distinct Population Segment?
Q- What does Wyoming have to do to have an
approved state law and wolf management plan?
Specifically, the Service must be assured that the Wyoming state law clearly authorizes the Wyoming state wolf plan and professional wildlife managers in Wyoming Game and Fish Department to-
• Classify all wolves in Wyoming as trophy
game or similar status so Wyoming Game and Fish Department has clear legal
authority to regulate human-caused mortality if needed.
Q- Does this mean the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
will require wolf packs to be maintained throughout all the states
Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming?
Q- Why not wait until Wyoming has an approved plan
before proposing that wolves be delisted?
Q- What happens when Wyoming develops a modified
state law and plan?
Q- How many wolves must the States manage for if
they were delisted?
Q- How is the final decision made?
Q- What happens to wolves outside the NRM wolf DPS
if a proposal is published and wolves are delisted in the future?
Q- Who makes the final decision whether Wyoming’s
regulatory framework can be approved or if wolves should be delisted?
Q- Is there any federal oversight once wolves
Q- What is tribal involvement after wolves are
Q- How will livestock and wolf conflicts be
handled if wolves are delisted?
Q- Will delisting the NRM wolf DPS mean that
wolves can be hunted?
Q- Can the states be trusted to manage wolves?
Q-Who is paying for all of this?
Q- Who will pay livestock compensation if wolves
Q – How does the Advanced Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking affect Wyoming’s petition to delist wolves?
Email Us: MountainPrairie@fws.gov
Region Press Releases
FWS Mountain-Prairie Region Home Page • FWS National Website
Privacy • Department of the Interior • FirstGov •
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Who We Are • Questions/Contact Us