MISSOULA, Mont.–A U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. granted the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s request to intervene in a lawsuit by animal rights groups seeking to return federal protection to Wyoming’s wolf population. That means the judge will consider RMEF’s arguments in the case. RMEF also filed to intervene in a similar lawsuit regarding Wyoming wolves based in a Cheyenne, Wyo., U.S District Court.
“This matter is no different than the current case in the Great Lakes or past legal cases in the northern Rocky Mountains,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Individual states need to be given the opportunity to manage the wildlife species within their borders. These Wyoming lawsuits seek to frustrate the science-based management plan already laid out and approved by the federal government.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed Wyoming wolves from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in August 2012 with a minimum population estimate at that time of 328 wolves, including 48 packs and 27 breeding pairs. That total included 224 wolves, 36 packs and 19 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park.
A subsequent hunting season led to the harvesting of 42 wolves in the trophy-hunting zone bordering Yellowstone with 26 taken as unprotected predators elsewhere in the state. Wyoming Game and Fish since proposed reducing wolf hunt quotas by half for the 2013 fall season. Wildlife managers must maintain at least 100 wolves, including 10 breeding pair, outside of the Wind River Reservation and Yellowstone.
Addressing the situation, a spokesman for Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, Renny MacKay, stated, “Wolves in Wyoming are clearly recovered. Our management plan is based on the best available science, committing to the sustainability of the wolf population and genetic connectivity in the Northern Rockies. More importantly, our wolf management since delisting has proven the state’s ability and commitment to responsibly manage wolves.”
RMEF has a rich heritage of 26 years of work in Wyoming that includes 514 projects that enhanced or protected more than one million acres. RMEF also made contributions of more than $3.7 million to protect and enhance habitat, manage wildlife, and support conservation and hunting heritage outreach programs in Wyoming.
“RMEF invested nearly $7 million in wildlife research efforts around the country to better understand elk habitat use, population dynamics, predation, habitat management and other such issues. We need to strongly consider and abide by these findings and not frustrate science-based management by allowing these lawsuits to go through. They could affect Wyoming’s elk, deer, moose, wild sheep and other big game species from here on out,” added Allen.
RMEF joins a combination of government and sportsmen organizations including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, State of Wyoming, Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association as defendants. RMEF recently received intervenor status in the Great Lakes region wolf lawsuit.