Wyoming, feds to appeal restored wolf protections
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming and U.S. government officials have filed separate notices that they will appeal a ruling by a federal judge that reinstated protections for wolves in the state.
The notices filed this week target the decision in September by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington, D.C., who rejected a Wyoming wolf management plan that took effect in 2012.
The state plan had classified wolves in most of the state as predators that could be shot on sight.
Jackson agreed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that wolves in the Northern Rockies have recovered. However, she ruled that the federal agency should not have accepted Wyoming’s nonbinding promise to maintain at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation.
The Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves in the Northern Rockies in the 1990s. The animals have since expanded their range.
Despite the plan to appeal, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said Thursday he believes that congressional action holds the best chance for resolving the long-running dispute over manage wolves in the state.
Congress previously specified that there could be no legal challenges to decisions to end federal protection for wolves in Idaho and Montana.
Many Wyoming residents believe the wolf population in the state should be restrained to minimize the killing of livestock and other wildlife by the animals.
Wyoming has been involved in nearly continuous litigation against environmental groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the state’s effort to gain control of wolf management.
“To state it as simply as possible, we’re trying to cover all bases,” Mead said of the state’s notice that it will appeal Jackson’s ruling.
Mead said his administration is working with the state’s congressional delegation on legislation to turn over wolf management to Wyoming and prohibit further legal challenges.
Under the plan rejected by Jackson, Wyoming had divided the state into two general zones. Trophy hunting was allowed in a flexible area bordering Yellowstone, where the number of wolves killed was controlled by license sales. Wolves were left unprotected as predators in the rest of the state.
Trophy hunting is not allowed under federal management.
Mead previously said the state had almost 190 wolves and 15 breeding pairs after the first hunting season in 2012 and just under 200 wolves and 15 breeding pairs after last year’s hunt.
Jackson’s ruling derailed the state plan to allow hunters to kill a maximum total of 43 wolves starting in October.
Tim Preso, a lawyer with Earthjustice in Montana, represented a coalition of groups that sued to overturn Wyoming’s wolf plan. He said his clients are prepared to assert that the appeals court should uphold the ruling by Jackson.
Preso said it appears Wyoming’s best chance at restoring state wolf management would be to fix the flaws in its management plan rather than challenge the judge’s ruling.
The confirmation of a female gray wolf from the Northern Rockies near the Grand Canyon shows that wolves have the ability to find places to live if humans don’t kill them, Preso said.
“The big issue that we had with Wyoming’s plan was it provided too many opportunities for people to kill wolves with little to nothing in the way of limits on that in most of the state,” said Preso. “In the rest of the state there were a lot of things that really weren’t nailed down by way of conservation promises.”