Wyoming’s governor supports an amendment that passed the U.S. House on Friday to restore wolf management duties in Wyoming and three other states.
Wyoming wildlife regulators say they’re ready should the bill survive the U.S. Senate and get signed into law.
The amendment would also halt future judicial review of federal wolf protections in the four states included.
“The gray wolf in Wyoming is fully recovered and flourished under state management,” Gov. Matt Mead told the Jackson Hole Daily via email Friday. “I appreciate the efforts of Congresswoman [Cynthia] Lummis and the others who supported the amendment. I hope the Senate takes action on this bill quickly as it is past time for wolves to be delisted and management to be returned to the state.”
The House of Representatives on Friday amended the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2015 (H.R. 2406) to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for Wyoming wolves.
Department of Game and Fish spokesman Renny MacKay said there have been several such amendments on that topic made in the recent past.
MacKay said Wyoming game officials are in “the best position to manage the state’s wildlife.”
MacKay said the state is fully prepared to take over management of the wolf population should anything come of the amendment.
“We have a track record that shows we do it well,” he said.
Wolves in Wyoming have been under federal protection since September 2014 when a federal judge took away state management authority.
An environmental group that successfully sued Wyoming over the issue sent out a statement following Friday’s bid to guarantee state control of wolf populations to Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The group Earthjustice disagrees with the state’s favorable assessment of its past wolf management policies.
“This is an unfortunate day for wolves,” Drew Caputo, Earthjustice vice-president of litigation for oceans, lands and wildlife, said Friday in the release.
“If enacted, this legislation could prove devastating for the recovery of wolves in the continental United States,” Caputo said. “What’s at stake here is whether wolves in Wyoming and in the Great Lakes will again face the same unregulated killing that nearly wiped them out in the first place.”
Caputo said the vote could damage “the very foundation of the Endangered Species Act, a law that has a 99 percent success rate at pulling species back from the brink of extinction.”
Lummis was one of the amendment’s four sponsors.
At Friday’s hearing Lummis held up a large photo of wolves attacking a mother and calf moose. Shiras’s Moose, she said, are “in rapid decline, and it’s because of these critters.
“The reason that this is a big issue is they’re wiping out the babies,” she said.
She also held up an International Union for Conservation of Nature map showing worldwide wolf population concentrations, saying the wolf is not in decline and is listed by that worldwide group as a species of “least concern.”
Video of Lummis’ remarks is available at http://cs.pn/210uheQ.
The legislation also expands access to hunting and fishing areas on public lands, and extends protections for the use of lead bullets.
The bill also lets hunters import 41 polar bear carcasses shot in Canada before they were declared threatened in 2008 and allows limited imports of ivory from African elephants.
The bill was approved, 242-161, and now goes to the Senate. Twelve Democrats joined 230 Republicans in favor of the measure.
Opponents said the bill would roll back important protections for wolves and other wildlife and undermine international efforts to combat ivory trafficking.
“This legislation,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, “would open up our most pristine protected lands to road-building, motorized vehicles and other activities that undermine the explicit intent of the Wilderness Act.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.