Wolves will not be reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park earlier than 1993 and more likely not until 1995, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director John Turner said.
The amount of public review that will be necessary following the report of the Department of Interior's Wolf Management Committee in May will prevent early reintroduction of a experimental population into the park, Turner said Wednesday at a news conference.But he said if wolves recolonize the park before then, ranchers, hunters and others who now are fighting reintroduction will be the losers.
Turner said federal agencies will have more flexibility in controlling problem wolves with an experimental population. If wolves were to move into the park before the experimental population were introduced, "then wolves in Yellowstone would be protected as endangered species," he said.
That would mean ranchers and hunters would suffer the consequences without the special management considerations an experimental reintroduction could include.
Turner, who met this week at his Jackson Hole ranch with the heads of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management, said it's no longer a question of if but how and when wolves will return to Yellowstone. He said the wolf committee's task is to ensure that reintroduction is done with the least impact on stockmen, game and other federal land users in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
Turner said the potential for wolves to show up in central Idaho is even greater. His agency reported numerous sightings last year, and as many as 20 wolves may already live in the central Idaho wilderness.
Lorraine Mintzmyer, wolf committee member and regional director of the National Park Service, said one possibility is for the panel to recommend a survey to determine whether wolf packs already exist in Idaho.
The wolf issue was one of the subjects of discussion between Turner, National Park Service Director James Ridenour, U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Robertson and Bureau of Land Management Director Cy Jamison. The agency heads, who control a total of 600 million acres of federal land, meet quarterly to coordinate their programs.
Meanwhile, the Idaho House of Representatives is considering a resolution telling the federal government the Legislature opposes reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone and the central Idaho wilderness.
The resolution says wolves would have "a serious negative impact on the economic and natural resource base of the state." It asks Congress to direct the Wolf Management Committee to address state concerns before wolves are reintroduced.
The wolf committee is scheduled to meet in Boise Tuesday and Wednesday.