September 30, 2010

Western Senators Introduce Legislation Allowing States to Manage Wolf Populations

With Wildlife and Livestock Threatened, Legislation Removes Federal Gray Wolf Protections, Returns Authority to States

Washington, D.C. Today, a group of Western Senators unveiled legislation putting state governments in charge of managing wolf populations that have become a threat to wildlife and livestock. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), James Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) introduced the Returning Wolf Management to the States Act (S. 3919).

In order to give states the authority to manage wolf populations, the bill removes Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves. The gray wolf has been on the ESA since 1972. Since then, wolf populations have not only recovered, but grown to such considerable sizes that they are threatening wildlife and livestock.

With scientific data demonstrating the overwhelming growth and recovery of wolf populations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the gray wolf from the ESA in 2009. In response, environmental groups successfully challenged this decision in federal court, returning ESA protections to the species. Unlike similar legislation in the House, this bill, upon enactment, would prevent any further litigation and preempt any outstanding lawsuits.

"Washington needs to get out of the way of how states control wolf populations," said Hatch. "Bureaucrats in Washington don't understand the kind of impact the wolf has in Utah and throughout the West. I am proud to sponsor this bill that will give state governments the authority to have the final say in wolf management."

"Wildlife management is the responsibility of the states and western states like Idaho have successfully managed elk, deer, bear and cats for decades. Wolf management has been no different," said Risch. "Idaho can continue to successfully manage wolves and this legislation allows that by removing the federal government from the management role of this recovered species."

"Idaho has demonstrated its resolve to responsibly manage wolves," Crapo said. "Federal management agencies have recognized those efforts as well. Now, our state, citizens and communities will be subject to further uncertainty on this very important issue and will continue to lack the tools to effectively manage wolves. It is time for Congress to acknowledge those accomplishments and that is why this legislation should be approved."

"Recovery numbers and science show that wolves no longer need to be on the endangered species list, but frivolous lawsuits and broken federal promises keep them listed," said Enzi. "States are completely capable of managing wolves on their own without the federal government micromanaging them at every turn. This bill would finally free our state, ranchers and wildlife from the shackles of federal mismanagement."

"Wyoming has met our recovery goals and honored our commitments to recover the wolf," said Barrasso. "It's time for Washington to now hold up their end of the bargain, and delist the wolf."