Reduced Wolf Protections Take Effect
Many of you may not be aware that wolf management entered a new era on February 28, when a new management rule for gray wolves officially took effect. Issued on January 24, the so-called “10(j)” rule – named for a provision of the federal Endangered Species Act – significantly weakens protections for gray wolves in the northern Rockies from now until wolves are formally delisted. It is basically a de facto delisting of the wolf.
Under the rule currently in effect, hundreds of wolves can be killed if the states can demonstrate that they are having an “unacceptable impact” on elk, deer and other wild ungulate populations. Wolves, of course, rely on these species for food. Numbers of wild ungulates are well above population goals in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, and wolves have never been determined to be the primary cause of a population decline.
My team has already filed a lawsuit challenging the new rule, but it is unlikely the court will rule on that case prior to delisting. Once wolves are removed from the list of endangered species, the rule will no longer apply and states will assume full responsibility for wolf management. For the next 30 days, I will be watching very closely to see how the 10(j) rule is implemented on the ground and the impact it has on wolves.