Washington, D.C.---Congressman Jim Matheson will introduce bipartisan legislation that would return responsibility for managing the now-recovered gray wolf populations in the West and Midwest to state wildlife managers. Matheson, along with Members from Montana and Wyoming, is offering a bill which prohibits the treatment of the gray wolf as an endangered or threatened species
Matheson said that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is for saving species from extinction and most scientists agree that with the wolf's current numbers and distribution, the wolf is no longer in danger.
"Federal wolf recovery experts say that the reintroduction of the gray wolf is a success. Population numbers exceed the original federal recovery goals in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. It's time to let state wildlife professionals do their job and balance the needs of predator and prey to maintain a healthy balance," said Matheson.
Matheson said a diverse group of scientists and sportsmen's groups have completed studies documenting that not only have gray wolves recovered, their numbers—conservatively set at 1,700-- have contributed to a dramatic drop in elk, deer and moose populations. Matheson said that is hurting hunting opportunities and—as a result—harming rural economies that rely on money spent by sportsmen and sportswomen in the West.
Matheson said the legislation is partially a response to legal challenges by some environmental groups who have argued that the gray wolf should not be removed from the ESA list until it has been re-established in all the lower 48 states. Although the US Fish & Wildlife Service previously de-listed the wolf in Idaho and Montana, it maintained the endangered listing for wolf populations in Wyoming, due to an internal disagreement with Wyoming's wolf management plan. The court ruled federal law prohibited Fish & Wildlife service from the partial de-listing.
"For more than 15 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, Indian tribes, conservation organizations, ranchers and other landowners have worked diligently on wolf recovery. The government—as one wolf recovery advocate has said—has an ethical, if not a legal obligation to delist the species, keeping faith with all the stakeholders who put aside differences and worked cooperatively towards this success," said Matheson. "Instead of wasting money on court fights, let's focus on long-term sustainability of wildlife and habitat conservation."