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FWP chief hopes new Wyoming governor may help resolve wolf issue

FWP chief hopes new Wyoming governor may help resolve wolf issue

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Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Joe Maurier hopes that Wyoming's new governor may be more willing to negotiate with the federal government to adjust the state's wolf rules.

Maurier made the statement Tuesday in a hearing on House Joint Resolution 1 before the House Fish and Wildlife Committee. The resolution urges Congress to delist wolves in Montana and turn over management of the animals to the state. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg have introduced separate bills in Congress to have wolf management returned to the states.

Maurier said FWP supports the resolution, but he said he's not very hopeful that wolves will ever be removed from the endangered-species list.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead was sworn in Jan. 3, replacing Dave Freudenthal, who did not seek a third term. Maurier said staff members for Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar spent two days with Freudenthal in an unsuccessful attempt to hash out a temporary agreement that would have allowed wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming for three years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had even agreed to support Wyoming's dual status for wolves, he said. Under dual status, wolves can be shot on sight as predators in most of the state and protected in the rest. Maurier said the Fish and Wildlife Service simply wanted to redraw the lines between the two zones before supporting the measure.

Maurier said Freudenthal wouldn't accept compromise. He said he hoped that Mead will be more willing to find middle ground.

Wolves were delisted in Montana and Idaho in 2009 but were relisted in 2010 after environmental groups sued. Wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho were allowed to proceed for one season, but in August, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy revoked the animals' delisting and halted the hunts.

Maurier said Montana is committed to having a viable population of wolves, but lack of state management of the animals, including hunting, is souring public support of wolves.

“The feds don't really have our best interests at heart,” he said, “and there are folks in the Fish and Wildlife Service that believe we need more wolves.”

There are an estimated 1,700 wolves spread across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The federal target for the species when they were reintroduced was 300 wolves and 30 breeding pairs.

HJR1 was introduced by House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade. He said he introduced the measure because wolves are fully recovered and beyond the original federal goals.

“We decided to send this resolution to Congress to say we can't do it alone, so step up to the plate and delist it themselves,” Milburn said.

Contact Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor, at french@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1387.

Contact Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor, at french@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1387.

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