On Tuesday US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson refused a request from the state of Wyoming to return management of its wolf population to the state’s Game and Fish Department. Earlier in September Jackson ruled that Wyoming’s wolves be returned to federally protected status, calling the state’s current management plan inadequate. In response, Wyoming Governorn Matt Mead signed an emergency regulation to address Jackson’s concerns as a bid to restore the state’s wolf season before the hunt’s opening day on October 1. Upon review, Jackson decided that the new management plan by the state fell short of addressing her concerns, and remanded gray wolf management back to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
“I am disappointed in Judge Berman Jackson’s ruling,” Governor Mead said in a statement. “Wyoming has been successful in its management of gray wolves. There were more wolves in Wyoming at the end of 2013 than in 2012. Wyoming has managed wolves well above the minimum and buffer population numbers. Overturning the [USFWS] delisting decision on a technicality highlights Wyoming’s concerns with the Endangered Species Act”.
As a result, the suspension of all wolf hunting in Wyoming, including in predator zones, continues. The USFWS first turned over wolf management to the state in 2012, after the Service acknowledged that wolves in the Northern Rockies and elsewhere had recovered. Several animal advocacy groups opposed the delisting and filed a lawsuit against the state after Wyoming allowed hunters to harvest wolves as both trophy animals during the winter season and as predatory animals year-round. In her September 23 ruling, Jackson found that management plan was not legally sufficient to support the USFWS’ rule on “limited take” of gray wolves, and returned control of the species back to the federal agency. Wyoming Game and Fish released a press release on Tuesday protesting the decision.
“We are disappointed in the ruling that removes the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s ability to manage gray wolves in Wyoming,” said Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik. “We will continue to work with the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office to address relevant concerns and ensure wolf management is returned to the state.”
To do that, the agency will either have to appeal the decision or revise their wolf management plan even further. Until that time, the state’s wolf population will remain under the management of the USFWS and federal protections provided by the Endangered Species Act.
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