Wolf issue addressed in Wyoming: Lawmakers drafting new bill to answer federal questions

Associated Press
Billings Gazette


CHEYENNE, WYOMING - A bill is being drafted for the coming budget session to address concerns raised by the federal government over Wyoming's plan to manage wolves.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has delayed removal of federal protection for gray wolves in the Yellowstone area and turning management over to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming because the agency has deemed Wyoming's plan unacceptable.

Among the concerns is classifying wolves in part of the state as predators which could be killed virtually at will. In the rest of the state - outside Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and Rockefeller Parkway where they would remain protected - wolves would be subject to regulated hunting as trophy game.

While some lawmakers and Gov. Dave Freudenthal are mulling possible legal action, Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, is heading efforts to draft a bill that seeks to address the federal government's concerns.

Sen. Keith Goodenough, D-Casper, supports the legislation.

"If the goal is to be able to hunt problem wolves, the quickest path is to pass a plan acceptable to the Feds," he said Sunday in an e-mail.

Wyoming's wolf management plan

Fish and Wildlife Service officials told the Legislature's Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee last week that a hunting season could be of any duration and at any price for a license with no interference by the federal government, Goodenough said.

Goodenough said he made a mistake in voting for legislation in 2003 that outlined the current plan.

"I should have known better," he wrote. "I did not serve the interests of the ag community well when I voted for that bill last year."

Burns and Goodenough are both members of the Travel Committee.

The four-week budget session convenes Feb. 9.

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Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.



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