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Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Del McOmie, R-Lander
Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Del McOmie, R-Lander

State preps to end wolf protections

Feb 15, 2012 - By Ben Neary The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Wyoming lawmakers appear ready to change the state's wolf management law to accommodate an agreement that Gov. Matt Mead and U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar reached last year on ending federal protections for the animals in the state.

Under the agreement, wolves could be shot on sight in much of the state. The Republican governor has made wolf management a priority, saying the animals threaten agricultural interests and other wildlife.

Officials say there are about 300 wolves in the state, and Mead has said the population grows by 10 percent every year.

Under the deal, Wyoming would commit to maintaining 15 breeding pairs and at least 150 animals in the state, including within Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. The state would be responsible for keeping at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside the park and the reservation.

The agreement calls for wolves to be treated as protected game animals in a flexible zone around Yellowstone but classified as unprotected predators that could be shot on sight in the rest of the state.

Steve Ferrell, wildlife policy adviser to the governor, briefed members of the Legislature's Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee on the deal Tuesday in Cheyenne.

Wyoming lawmakers appear ready to approve the wolf delisting agreement for their state without having similar congressional protection against legal challenges in place. A provision that would have banned legal challenges to delisting in Wyoming had been included in a congressional spending bill last year but the language was stripped out.

Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Del McOmie, R-Lander, said Wyoming can't expect Congress to promise protection from lawsuits before the state endorses a specific wolf management plan.

"We don't do that in this Legislature either," he said. "We pitch fits if there's not specificity."

"We still very much want congressional protection from judicial review as part of this package," Ferrell told lawmakers. He said he's been in contact with members of Wyoming's congressional delegation continuing to seeking Ferrell said people in Washington have advised him that the Legislature shouldn't condition its approval of the delisting agreement on first getting a congressional guarantee of immunity from legal challenges.