The Bush White House wants to delist gray wolves in Montana and Idaho, but not Wyoming.
In what many environmentalists hope is its last affront to their sensibilities, the Bush administration is once again trying to remove endangered species protection for the rebounding gray wolf population of the Northern Rockies. Just this past September, environmentalists won a challenge in federal court overturning a previous Bush order to remove federal protection for the wolves, which were reintroduced to the greater Yellowstone area a dozen years ago and, although thriving, are still considered vulnerable by biologists.
This time around the White House is whistling a slightly different tune—it will leave gray wolves in the state of Wyoming, where ranchers have been especially eager to kill any wolves straying near cattle and sheep, under federal protection as a threatened species but remove protections for wolves in neighboring Montana and Idaho.
"Wolves don’t read maps," says Dr. Sylvia Fallon, the NRDC staff scientist whose genetic expertise was central in the initial challenge case. "We agree that Wyoming’s plan is inadequate, but you cannot have protections start and stop at state lines. We are close to having truly appropriate conditions in place to remove these animals from the list; but until the population reaches critical size and shows genetic interchange, these policies are completely counter-productive."According to NRDC, the reintroduction of wolves in the region has been a "major success story [that has] measurably improved the natural balance in the Northern Rockies and benefited bird, antelope and elk populations." The group also points to studies showing that thousands of visitors every year make the trip to Yellowstone National Park—contributing some $35 million to the local economy—to see and hear wolves in the wild.