WASHINGTON — Gray wolves in several Western states, including Utah, will be removed from the Endangered Species List, the Department of the Interior said Wednesday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services will reinstate a 2009 rule delisting wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains, which include Idaho and Montana and parts of Oregon, Washington and Utah. Congress directed the action in its 2011 appropriations bill passed last month. The rule will be effective Thursday.
“Like other iconic species such as the whooping crane, the brown pelican, and the bald eagle, the recovery of the gray wolf is another success story of the Endangered Species Act,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a press release. “The gray wolf’s biological recovery reflects years of work by scientists, wildlife managers, and our state, tribal, and stakeholder partners to bring wolf populations back to healthy levels.”
Fish and Wildlife and the states will continue to monitor wolf populations and gather data for at least five years under a post-delisting monitoring plan.
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the delisting doesn't go far enough.
“While I certainly appreciate the Department of Interior moving forward with delisting the gray wolf in certain parts of our nation, they failed to include the entire state of Utah, even parts of the state where wolf populations exist,” Hatch said. “I will be discussing this issue with the Department of Interior, in consultation with Utah’s Department of Natural Resources and Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), to try to expand this across all of Utah.”
The Utah DWR has found wolves in areas of Eastern Utah that are not included in the areas that Interior has selected in Utah, according to a press release from Hatch's office, limiting state management of wolf populations to the extreme northern portion of the state.
Hatch is the lead sponsor of legislation — the American Big Game and Livestock Protection Act (S.249) — that would put states in charge of managing their wolf populations.
“Gray wolves have recovered in such a way throughout much of the West that they are actually becoming a danger and a menace to ranchers and farmers," said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah.
Bishop said while he's happy about the rule there is still much more work that needs to be done to give states and local governments greater control and management of gray wolf and other wildlife populations.
Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature approved a resolution urging Congress to remove wolves from the list.
During Senate debate, now-retired West Jordan Republican Sen. Chris Buttars said animals have "ups and downs, but a wolf is a killing machine, is a killing machine, is a killing machine. That's it."
The proliferation of wolves the past few years threatens the Utah economy, particularly in agricultural areas, said Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden. Not only are wolves hurting rural jobs, they are taking a toll on wildlife and livestock, killing pets and threatening people.
Christensen said state wildlife agencies are better prepared to manage wolves than the federal government.