Court rules Wyoming wolves should be stripped of federal protections

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By Laura Zuckerman

<span class="articleLocation”>Wolves in Wyoming should be stripped of
Endangered Species Act protections and management given to the
state rather than the U.S. government, a federal appeals court
ruled on Friday, a decision that opens the door for hunting of
the animals.

U.S. wildlife managers in 2012 determined that wolves in
Wyoming had rebounded from the threat of extinction and that the
state plan to oversee the creatures was adequate to ensure their
survival.

But conservation groups sued, contending the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service had acted in an arbitrary and unlawful fashion
in finding Wyoming’s plan acceptable. They argued the state
would fail to maintain the animals at certain population levels
and would subject a portion of them to being shot on sight.

A U.S. district judge sided with environmentalists in a
2014 decision and the several hundred wolves in Wyoming were
once again placed under federal safeguards.

The state, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency and others
appealed that ruling and, on Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals
in the District of Columbia reversed the lower court, finding
that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had indeed “exercised
its judgment in a reasonable way” in concluding that Wyoming’s
management plan would provide wolves with sufficient
protections.

“The record demonstrates that the Service reasonably and
adequately responded to concerns about the reliability of
Wyoming’s management plan,” the court said in the opinion.

The decision was quickly hailed by Wyoming’s Republican
governor, Matt Mead, who said in a written statement, “This is
the right decision for wolves and for Wyoming.”

Mead said the state will once again assume management of
wolves once the 2012 delisting rule is formally reinstated but
the time frame was not immediately clear.

Conservationists decried the ruling, which they said they
were still reviewing.

“But we’re going to continue to fight to protect wolves from
hostile and extreme state management policies where they exist,”
Tim Preso, attorney for the environmental law firm Earthjustice,
told Reuters by telephone on Friday.

Wolves were hunted, trapped and poisoned to near extinction
in the Lower 48 states before coming under federal protections
in the 1970s.

They were re-introduced to the Northern Rockies in the
mid-1990s over the objections of ranchers and sportsmen, who
feared wolves would prey on livestock and game animals favored
by hunters.

In 2011, wolves in Idaho and Montana were delisted through
an unprecedented act of Congress. Both of the Northern Rocky
Mountain states have liberal hunting and trapping seasons tied
to wolves.



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