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Wildlife Advocates Petition To Restore Federal Endangered Species Protections For Gray Wolves

A gray wolf in the wild. Park officials say hunting restrictions in place in parts of of Montana have protected Yellowstone's wolves from a repeat of a 2009 hunt in which four Yellowstone wolves were shot.
A gray wolf in the wild. Park officials say hunting restrictions in place in parts of of Montana have protected Yellowstone's wolves from a repeat of a 2009 hunt in which four Yellowstone wolves were shot.

Multiple wildlife advocacy groups Wednesday officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to resume endangered species protection for gray wolves in the northern Rockies. The filing is a direct response to new legislation in Idaho and Montana expanding hunting and professional extermination efforts to reduce wolf populations.

The Center For Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and the National Humane Society and its lobbying arm, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, co-signed the petition. It says the drastic reduction of wolf populations violates the 2011 delisting agreement (authored in 2009) between the states and the federal government.

“I do think it’s pretty straightforward,” said Andrea Zaccardi, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

The delisting agreement allows Fish and Wildlife to step in and resume federal protection of wolves if states make significant changes to species management plans.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service, in that rule,” Zaccardi said, “stated directly that if the states were to authorize unregulated killing of wolves in those states, that they would reconsider restoring protections and doing so on an emergency basis.”

Idaho’s wolf management plan, established in 2002, identifies a minimum number of 15 packs, about 150 wolves. Below that number, state Fish and Game managers would be required to take corrective action, and federal wildlife officials could take action as well.

Idaho’s new law takes effect July 1. Advocates don’t want wolf populations to get anywhere near those agreement minimums.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cannot stand by while Idaho and Montana order the extermination of wolves to appease the livestock industry and trophy hunters,” said Nicholas Arrivo, managing attorney for wildlife at the Humane Society of the United States in a press announcement.

“The agency must follow its obligation to reinstate federal protections, or risk wolves disappearing from the West again.”

The agency has up to 90 days to issue a preliminary response to the petition.

In April, The Center for Biological Diversity also asked the federal government to withhold approximately $18 million in annual wildlife management funding from Idaho.

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