Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced last week that state wildlife agencies in Idaho and Montana have been approved to take over management of gray wolf populations in their states from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Bush administration has proposed removing the wolf—which has exceeded recovery expectations since its reintroduction to the three-state Yellowstone area just a decade ago—from the federal threatened species list.
“This is a tremendous step forward for the state of Idaho,” says Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne, who is reportedly on President Bush’s short list of candidates to take over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “The old rule was written to protect 25 to 50 wolves. Now we have more than 500 wolves; the dynamics have changed, so the management also must change.”
Meanwhile, Wyoming continues to hold out on submitting a wolf management plan to the federal government on grounds that residents there are not interested in maintaining any wolves—which ranchers fear prey on livestock—in their state. The wolf management plans submitted by Idaho and Montana (and approved by the Department of Interior) call for loosening some restrictions on the elimination of wolves that threaten or kill livestock.
“Under the old rule, the wolf had to have its teeth in the livestock,” says Ed Bangs, wolf recovery team leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Under the new rule, it has to be a foot away, chasing them.”