Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, is howling that a committee that was supposed to plan how best to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone National Park did just the opposite.
He says its plan, expected to be unveiled by the Interior Department Wednesday, could lead to the extermination of other wolves already in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. And it has no firm timetable for wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone."This plan is a cowardly wolf in sheep's clothing," Owens said at a press conference Tuesday. "We instructed them last fall (through legislation Owens pushed) to prepare a plan to reintroduce the wolf. And they have prepared a plan that turns the National Environmental Protection Act on its head and endangers the Endangered Species Act. It will be fought legislatively. It will be fought politically."
Owens - who was joined by several environmental groups and "Dances With Wolves" author Michael Blake - complained about provisions in the plan including provisions.
Defenders of Wildlife Acting President Jame Dougherty said, "Congress asked the committee to prepare a plan to bring the wolf back to Yellowstone, but what they have done instead is draw up a proposal to allow the few wolves that are surviving in the region to be shot virtually on sight."
He claimed membership of the wolf-reintroduction study panel was stacked against wolves. Its 10 members included two from
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environmental groups (the only two to vote against the final plan), three from federal agencies, three from state fish and game agencies, one from ranchers and one from outfitters.
"The state agencies, ranchers and outfitters were always against wolves," Dougherty said.
Scott Kearin, top aide to Owens, said he felt the makeup of the committee was fair, but the federal agency representatives finally sided with groups opposing wolves in order to come up with some kind of plan by the statutory May 15 deadline.
National Audubon Society Wildlife Policy Director Randall Snodgrass added, "The plan is as bad as it can get. The management committee has capitulated to the livestock industry and delivered a plan that flies in the face of the Endangered Species Act. The wolf and this landmark law are the clear losers."
About provisions allowing shooting of wolves by ranchers, Snodgrass said, "Why bother reintroducing an endangered species if we are going to allow killing? Illegal poaching of wolves is already taking a heavy toll."
Wolf Recovery Foundation President Suzanne Morris, said, "We ask Congress to replace this plan with one that truly involves the public in the recovery of the wolf."
Dougherty said environmental groups are frustrated with the administration and Congress. He said they plan to soon file suit in federal court seeking an order forcing them to adequately comply with earlier legislation regarding wolf reintroduction and the Endangered Species Act.
Owens said Yellowstone is "the only complete ecosystem in the temperate zones" except that it lacks its top predator, the wolf.
"They were eradicated some 75 years ago because they howled at night, frightened people, and it was commonly believed that they ate small children."