Gray wolf experimental population rule announced; lawsuit follows
U.S. Department of Interior, Fish & Wildlife Service: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revision of Special Regulation for the Central Idaho and Yellowstone Area Nonessential Experimental Populations of Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains. 73 Fed. Reg. 4720-4736 (Jan. 28, 2008)
SUMMARY: "We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have revised the 2005 special rule for the central Idaho and Yellowstone area nonessential experimental population (NEP) of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the northern Rocky Mountains. Specifically, we have modified the definition of ‘‘unacceptable impact’’ to wild ungulate populations so that States and Tribes with Service-approved postdelisting wolf management plans (hereafter, referred to as wolf management plans) can better address the impacts of a recovered wolf population on ungulate herds and populations while wolves remain listed. We made other minor revisions to clarify the requirements and processes for submission of proposals to control wolves for unacceptable ungulate impacts. We also modified the 2005 special rule to allow persons in States or on Tribal lands with wolf management plans to take wolves that are in the act of attacking their stock animals or dogs. All other provisions of the special rule remain unchanged."
Grey Wolf photo from U.S. FWS / Gary Kramer
See also, FWS / North Dakota Field Office
ANALYSIS: "Providing this revision to the special rule for additional management flexibility is appropriate because the NRM wolf population has met all its numerical, temporal, and distributional recovery goals (62 FR 15804). By middle of 2007, the NRM wolf population was estimated to contain 1,545 wolves in 105 breeding pairs (over 3 times the minimum numeric recovery goal for breeding pairs and more than 5 times the minimum population goal), and will exceed the minimum recovery levels for the 7th consecutive year... We do not expect this special rule to adversely affect the species because wolf biology allows for rapid recovery from severe disruptions. After severe declines, wolf populations can more than double in just 2 years if mortality is reduced and adequate food is available."
COMMENTARY: The rule addresses a less-commonly used provision of the ESA involving "experimental populations" of listed species. Specifically, the rule allows increased "take" of gray wolves in cental Idaho and the Yellowstone region, where wolf populations now occupy most of the suitable wolf habitat, and where states and tribes already manage wolf populations in accordance with approved management plans. As reported by the Missoulian (Jan. 29, 2008), environmental groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, have already filed suit to challenge the rule.
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Grey Wolf Fact Sheet
- enews, Bad News for Wolves(Jan. 28, 2008).
- Los Angeles Times, Federal Rule to Allow More Hunting of Gray Wolves (Jan. 25, 2008).
- Environment News Service, Rocky Mountain Gray Wolves in the Crosshairs (Jan. 28, 2008).
- "Preying on the Predator," from Northeast Pennsylvania'sPocono Record (Feb. 17, 2008)