Wyoming Loses Bid to Manage Its Gray Wolves

     (CN) – A federal judge agreed with environmentalists that Wyoming probably can’t handle its gray wolf population, but sidestepped questions of whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can remove the gray wolf from endangered species lists.
     U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson found that the Fish and Wildlife Service “could not reasonably rely on unenforceable representations when it deemed Wyoming’s regulatory mechanisms to be adequate.”
     The complaints brought by Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States and other environmental groups alleged that “the decision to delist the wolves in Wyoming was made in violation of the Endangered Species Act, and that it is arbitrary, capricious, and otherwise not in accordance with law.”
     The groups also took umbrage with the agency’s plans to transfer management of the gray wolf in Wyoming to state control.
     Specifically, the environmentalists claimed that “Wyoming’s statutory and regulatory regime is legally inadequate under the ESA,” and that “wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Area face an ongoing threat on inadequate genetic connectivity.”
     The groups also challenged claims made by the FWS that gray wolves are not imperiled throughout a “significant portion” of their range and warned that gray wolves “will be exterminated” from a large area of Wyoming if the state was allowed to manage wolf populations.
     Jackson upheld several of these claims, noting that the federal agency relied too heavily on “nonbinding statements” by state regulators in deciding to remove the gray wolf from endangered lists.
     The judge emphasized that the ESA requires the government to base its decision to list or delist a species “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.”
     Jackson also wrote that several scientists have expressed concerns that Wyoming’s conception of a “buffer” population is “vague and undefined.” Meanwhile,
     The agency has made several efforts since 2003 to “downlist” the gray wolf’s status to threatened, or delist the species completely, in Wyoming. However, a series of court rulings have repeatedly found the agency’s wolf management plans to be inadequate and capricious.
     In new rules approved in 2012, FWS and Wyoming attempted to expand a portion of gray wolf populations as “trophy game” in specific regions that would be monitored and regulated by the state.
     Jackson did find that “the service’s conclusion that Wyoming’s predator area is not a significant portion of the species’ range is reasonable.”
     She also determined that the killing of wolves by hunters in the “predator area” was shown to be “opportunistic and minimal” and would have little effect on genetic sharing between groups of wolves, handing the government a partial victory that ultimately affirmed FWS’s decision to delist the wolves.
     Jackson said that “given the level of genetic exchange reflected in the record, the court will not disturb the finding that the species has recovered, and it will not overturn the agency’s determination that the species is not endangered or threatened within a significant portion of its range.”
     The government claims there are now more than 1,774 adult wolves and over 100 breeding pairs over the entire Northern Rocky Mountains region, growth that has exceeded recovery goals for 10 consecutive years. The two other states in this region, Idaho and Montana, manage gray wolf populations under state plans.

%d bloggers like this: