Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that gray wolves in Montana and Idaho, as well as portions of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and north-central Utah will be formally removed from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife on Thursday.
The federal government also is proposing to delist gray wolf populations in the Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, saying they're also biologically recovered.
"This is a tremendous success story for the Endangered Species Act. It was just 16 years ago that tray wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone, and now populations in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes are biologically recovered," Salazar said during a conference call with reporters. "It's time to return their management to the states that are prepared to manage them."
While public comment will be taken on the Great Lakes proposed delisting, that won't take place in for the Rocky Mountain population because the Department of Interior is simply reinstating the terms of a 2009 rule that removed their federally protected status, as directed by Congress in April.
Salazar noted that the delisting in the Rocky Mountains makes moot a request by Montana officials to allow them to remove 18 of 30 wolves east of the Idaho border in the Bitterroot valley, where elk popula-tions have dropped significantly in part due to wolf predation.
It also will allow Montana and Idaho to institute a wolf hunting season this fall. Montana Fish, Wild-life and Parks is proposing to allow up to 220 of the known 566 wolves in the state to be shot by hunters, and will discuss that at the FWP Commission meeting in Helena on May 12. Idaho state biologists are expected to present options in July, with the Fish and Game Commission possibly adopting a harvest strategy at its meeting in August.
Read more in tomorrow's Independent Record.