- Updated Mar 10, 2016
A coalition of wolf advocates has warned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that they plan to sue if the agency doesn’t extend its supervision of wolf populations in Montana and Idaho another five years.
“When the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is offering five tags to every wolf hunter and Idaho Fish and Game is putting sharpshooters in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and funding aerial gunning in the Lolo Zone, we feel renewing another five years of federal monitoring is warranted,” said Matthew Koehler of Missoula-based Wild West Institute, one of five groups putting FWS on notice. “Given the situation on the ground and the ways state policy is changing, we think the prudent thing to do is keep monitoring wolf populations so they’re not hunted and trapped back to the brink of extinction.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Clearwater and Cascadia Wildlands joined Wild West Institute in the notice. By law, groups objecting to a federal agency must give it 60 days advance warning to offer time to craft a solution before going to court.
Gray wolves were extirpated from the continental U.S. in early 20th century. The Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves in remote areas of Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in 1994 and 1995. The wolves were protected under the federal Endangered Species Act until 2011, when Congress passed a provision removing their listed status in Idaho and Montana. However, FWS personnel were required to monitor wolf populations for five years after giving state wildlife agencies local control of the species.
Wolves remain a federally protected species in Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and the Great Lakes region. Congress is considering several provisions to change or remove those protections this year.
In early January, Idaho Department of Fish and Game workers improperly collared two wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness along the Montana border while carrying out a helicopter-assisted elk-collaring project. The agency reported the incident to the U.S. Forest Service, which suspended Idaho’s permission for further helicopter work in the wilderness pending a review of the state’s practices.
Idaho has also maintained a state-sponsored wolf-removal program in addition to a public wolf hunting season.
In Montana, resident hunters may buy up to five wolf licenses a season for $19 each. The state removed its annual quotas on wolf seasons in 2012.