A wolf reintroduction suggested by Sen. James McClure, R-Idaho, for Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho doesn't have much support among Montana's congressional delegation.
"My own personal view is I've been hesitant to support artificial location of wolves in the West," says Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., who is considered the delegation's most liberal member.Williams says he prefers natural migration of wolves, such as those moving from Canada into Glacier National Park. He also says if wolves are reintroduced, they should be managed differently than an endangered species.
Sen. Conrad Burns and Rep. Ron Marlenee, the two Republicans in Montana's delegation, say they oppose reintroducing wolves in the area as long as the animals are protected as an endangered species.
McClure's proposal calls for three pairs of wolves to be placed in the Yellowstone area and the Central Idaho Wilderness. They would be removed from the endangered species list outside "core" areas, for management by state wildlife personnel.
Endangered species are subject to federal protection.
"The key linchpin to that entire proposal is the delisting (from the Endangered Species Act) of the wolves," Marlenee says. "Delisting . . . has proven to be impossible in the past because of roadblocks thrown up by environmental groups."
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said through a press aide that he wants to observe further the wolf experiment in Glacier Park before taking a position on reintroduction.
Wildlife advocates say reintroducing wolves in Yellowstone and central Idaho will help produce an ecological balance by adding more predators to the area. Livestock producers have generally opposed the effort, fearing the wolves will kill sheep and cattle.
Hank Fischer of Missoula, regional representative of Defenders of Wildlife, gives credit to McClure for proposing a possible solution to the often contentious issue.
Two years ago, Frank Dunkle, then-director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, put the wolf reintroduction program on hold after several wolves killed livestock east of Glacier National Park.