Researchers split over Wyoming’s wolf plan
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole Daily
Date: January 6, 2012
A scientific review of Wyoming’s wolf plan has experts split on whether the species will continue to thrive after it is removed from Endangered Species Act protection in the state.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the Final Wyoming Gray Wolf Peer Review Summary Report on Thursday.
“The key over-arching issue for the panelists [and for the USFWS] is the extinction risk faced by the wolf population in the [Northern Rocky Mountains], and its potential for recovery,” report authors said. “One panelist was of the strongly expressed opinion that Wyoming’s plan is inconsistent with recovery goals. The remaining four panelists believe that the plan is, or could be, consistent with recovery.”
The primary concern among reviewers was how Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials would manage the 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park, required by the plan, according to the report. Federal and state officials have signed off on management plans for Idaho and Montana, but approval of a Wyoming plan was stalled until the summer when Gov. Matt Mead and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar agreed to end federal protections in the state.
The plan would deem wolves predators outside of northwest Wyoming, where they could be killed by any means, at any time, without a license.
Representatives from the U.S.G.S., the University of Montana, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Technological University reviewed the Wyoming wolf management plan.
“ ... [W]ill the population be rapidly reduced to the minimum necessary, or will there be an adaptive process and a buffer above the minimum?” the report authors ask. “It may indeed be that it is not in the State’s interest to manage down to the absolute minimum population; however that is what is stated in the plan, and it is not reasonable to simply assume that there will be consistent and longterm commitment to managing for levels above that target.”
“[T]he Plan, as written, does not do an adequate job of explaining how wolf populations will be maintained, and how recovery will be maintained,” the report continues. “It is clear that more than one panelist believes that there is a need for explicit buffering, and better explanations of the adaptive processes that will be used in managing down the wolf populations.”