MISSOULA - In what's becoming a new presidential tradition, Montana's wolves are back on the endangered-species list while President Barack Obama's staff reviews last-minute decisions of former president George W. Bush.
"This really isn't unusual at all," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Sharon Rose said Wednesday. "Several administrations have done the very same thing. They want a handle on what was going on in the last few months."
Federal officials declared the wolf a recovered species last week and announced plans to hand over management to state wildlife agencies. Those plans met immediate challenges from wolf advocates who argued the proposed hunting seasons in Montana and Idaho were too liberal to ensure wolf survival. They also objected to delisting the wolf in those states but not in Wyoming, saying the differing jurisdictions would hurt management of a species that doesn't observe state boundaries.
"This gives the Obama administration the opportunity to take into consideration the considerable threats that still face wolves in the Northern Rockies," said Jenny Harbine, a staff attorney with the legal organization Earthjustice. She was part of the team representing a dozen environmental groups that blocked FWS plans to delist the wolf last year.
The wolf delisting was scheduled to be published in the Federal Register Jan. 27, and would take effect 30 days later. Obama's action put that move on hold until his staff can complete a legal review. Rose said there was no timeline yet for how long that process might take.
However, her department has a number of senior administrative positions vacant and awaiting new political appointees.