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Till the fat lobo sings

Sep 9, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

Wolf delisting is tantalizingly close, but there's still time for a hiccup

"Wolves delisted," proclaimed headlines across Wyoming and the West in recent days.

Well, not exactly.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced its plan to remove all federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming as of Oct. 1. That's as close as we've been to actual delisting since the wolves were returned in 1996.

But it hasn't happened yet.

There are two ways of looking at the delisting order, and that discrepancy is likely to form the foundation for future, probably never-ending wolf conflicts in Wyoming. The first point of view is that the reintroduction of wolves to Wyoming has "worked," that is, wolves have been reintegrated successfully into the great Yellowstone ecosystem, where they now prosper in natural conditions in a food chain, geographic distribution and biological balance consistent with their historical life patterns before interference and impact from human beings eliminated them from the life landscape of our region.

In other words, it's time to delist the wolf because it no longer needs the protections of the federal Endangered Species Act.

Here's the second way to frame the delisting order: At last, we get a chance to kill the wolves. Only outside meddlers really wanted them reintroduced, and a strong majority of Wyoming citizens would have opposed the idea formally had it been put to a referendum. They have caused havoc with lawful livestock production in the state, causing significant economic losses in the livestock industry, which is a bedrock component of our state's agricultural industry. They were not in danger of extinction as a species, and their forced reintroduction to Wyoming was an artificial exercise in biological engineering whose main effect was to decimate big game populations and further widen the gap between Wyoming and the federal government.

In other words, it's time to delist the wolf because it never should have bene listed in the first place. It is a nuisance and ought to be hunted down to the barest minimum number possible.

Sometimes such diametric opposition can lead to a grudging but durable truce. This probably is the best Wyoming can hope for under delisting, given the 16-year history of reintroduction battles here.

Purely from the clinical standpoint, it would be useful for such a quiet period to be maintained for a few years so that we finally could see how wolves fared under a state management system that isn't subject to federal controls but which our state's wildlife managers believe could work, meaning supporting a self-sustaining wolf population in an environment of livestock production and legal hunting of wolves.

There are still 21 days until the order is to take effect. In the world of legal battling over wolves, 21 days borders on an eternity. Any number of injunction requests, court orders and stays of the order could happen.

Don't go sighting in your wolf rifles just yet, hunters. This one won't be over until the fat lobo sings.

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