Conservation organizations filed legal papers in Wyoming federal court today seeking to intervene in a lawsuit over the future of gray wolves in Wyoming. Earthjustice is representing the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council in their efforts to ensure that wolves are not subject to unregulated poisoning, trapping, and shooting across the vast majority of the species' range outside of national parks.
Twenty-eight Wyoming-based groups representing agricultural and outfitting interests filed suit in September, challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's refusal to approve Wyoming's wolf management plan. The Wyoming plan proposes to manage wolves as predators subject to indiscriminate killing throughout 90 percent of their range in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
"Wyoming wants to throw away a huge investment in wolf recovery and bring back the bad old days of poisoning, trapping and shooting wolves on site, " said Steve Thomas of the Wyoming Sierra Club's Sheridan office. "That's no way to ensure a healthy wolf population."
Currently gray wolves in Wyoming are protected by the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlfe Service is considering whether to "delist" wolves in the Northern Rockies and turn management over to the states. Before that can happen, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming must develop management plans that are sure to maintain viable wolf populations. Based on Wyoming's proposal to manage wolves as "predators" in the vast majority of their range outside the national parks, the Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that Wyoming's plan falls short.
The groups challenging this decision maintain that wolves are "severely" impacting livestock operations, elk numbers, and tourism revenues. According to Louisa Willcox of the Natural Resources Defense Council, "These are just more fairy tales about wolves. What we've actually seen over the last nine years since the Yellowstone reintroduction is that wolves are barely making a dent on livestock and elk, and tourism revenues are up year after year, in large part because wolves are attracting so many visitors from all over the country."
"Let's get real. Wolves kill fewer than 15 sheep in Wyoming every year. Three times as many sheep die from overeating. Ten times as many die from eagle attacks. Does that mean we should have an open season on eagles?" asked Abigail Dillen, an attorney with Earthjustice. "Wyoming needs to come forward with a balanced approach to managing wolves. The state doesn't classify mountain lions and black bears as predators that can be killed at any time by any means. There is no legitimate reason to treat wolves any differently."