The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced it is reopening the public comment period on its proposal to delist the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains.
Wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming were officially delisted in March 2008. Residents, livestock owners, and hunters had been clamoring for regulated wolf hunting seasons for years, and the DNRs of all three states had wolf management plans researched, developed and approved by USFWS.
But a lawsuit brought by a coalition of animal rights’ groups got delisting suspended (See article ) and on July 18, 2008, the U.S. Federal District Court in Missoula, Montana, issued an order reinstating Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. In September 2008, the Service requested the court vacate and remand the final delisting rule back to the Service. The court granted the Service's request on October 13, 2008.
At this time, the northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves remains under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Residents of the three states, livestock owners, hunters and wildlife biologists continue to be frustrated. In addition to serious predation on deer, elk and moose, wolves take a well-documented toll on livestock. In Idaho alone last year, wolves killed 52 cattle, 170 sheep and six dogs. Yet animal rights’ groups continue to portray controlled, regulated wolf hunting seasons as a sure path to extinction.
The reopened public comment period is the next step in USFWS’s effort to build a better case for delisting.
"The Service is committed to ensuring that wolves thrive in the northern Rocky Mountains and will continue to work with the states and the public to advance the recovery of the species," said Steve Guertin, Regional Director for the Mountain-Prairie Region.
The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves for three consecutive years, a goal that was attained in 2002 and has been exceeded every year since.
The public will have until November 28, 2008, to submit their comments to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov or via U.S. mail or hand delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018-Au53; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.