Wolf Protections Lifted
Boise-After months of vocal opposition from Congress and Western Governors, the Department of Interior decided Friday to lift protection status of gray wolves in Idaho and Montana.
The decision will allow hunting seasons in the two states to resume.
The settlement agreement - opposed by some environmentalists - will resolve years of litigation that have blocked hunting despite the fact that populations have dramatically grown.
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson opposed protections and fought to lift protections. Simpson included language in H.R. 1, legislation continuing operations for the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, to overturn Judge Donald Molloy’s decision and return management of wolf populations in the region to states with approved management plans, putting pressure on environmental groups to settle.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the states, not the federal government, should be managing these animals,” said Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. “The Fish and Wildlife Service made the right decision in delisting wolves and returning management authority to the states. Idaho and Montana have effective, approved plans in place for managing wolves and should regain control over management.
"For too long, wolf management in this country has been caught up in controversy and litigation instead of rooted in science, where it belongs. This proposed settlement provides a path forward," said Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes.
Court documents detailing the proposed agreement were filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Missoula.
It would keep the species on the endangered list, at least temporarily, in four states where they are considered most vulnerable: Wyoming, Oregon, Washington and Utah. And the deal calls for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set up a scientific panel that will re-examine wolf recovery goals calling for a minimum 300 wolves in the region - a population size wildlife advocates criticize as inadequate.
There are an estimated 1,651 wolves in the region following a costly but successful restoration effort. That program stirred deep antipathy toward the predators among western ranchers and hunters, who blame wolves for livestock attacks and a recent decline in some elk herds.
Court rulings blocked prior efforts by the Bush and Obama administrations to lift wolf protections.