U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are gathering public comments on delisting wolves under the Endangered Species Act. Jim Caswell, director of the state Office of Species Conservation, is delivering Idaho’s official position to the agency, but I want to share it with all of you as well.
Whether the standard is biological, social or political, it is time to remove the gray wolf from federal protection in the Northern Rocky Mountains.
The federal government has stated repeatedly over the past decade that 300 wolves in the region would be a recovered, viable population. Today we have a wolf population more than four times that size. There is no reason to delay delisting. The government should declare victory and move on.
Idahoans are proud stewards of the land and species of our state. Idaho is going to manage wolves as we do black bears and mountain lions. With estimated black bear and cougar populations of 20,000 and 3,000 respectively, Idaho has a proven record of responsible large carnivore management. We will continue this great record with wolves.
We will be guided by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s implementation of our state management plan, which was approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service and its handpicked wolf experts.
The key is flexibility to control problem wolves.
In areas where wolves are not destroying livestock or having a dramatic impact on our ungulate herds, wolves will be managed in concert with all species.
In areas where we’ve documented consistent patterns of chronic livestock depredation, like the Copper Basin, and where wolves are having an unacceptable impact on elk herds, the state will use sportsmen and other tools to manage wolves and protect private property.
Four factors assure that Idaho’s wolf population will remain viable for the long term: 1) The sheer number of wolves in the state – we have 72 confirmed packs; 2) Idaho’s rugged landscape; 3) Idaho’s determination to maintain its sovereignty and keep wolves from returning to the endangered species list; 4) The public policy of the state of Idaho to manage gray wolves at recovery levels that will ensure a self-sustaining population.
Some have questioned the future of wolves in Idaho under state management. We have made a compelling case over the past five years for state management with our management of other species and management of wolves under existing rules.
We have been steadily increasing the state’s wolf management responsibilities for a number of years in preparation for the day Idaho rightfully assumes full management responsibility. Now that day is upon us, and the last thing we want to see is the species return to federal management under the ESA.