WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will launch a new effort to determine whether gray wolves in Montana and other western states need renewed federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The agency announced Wednesday it had completed the review of two petitions from the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Humane Society, as well as the Western Watersheds Project asking that the gray wolf be listed as a "Distinct Population Segment", or DPS, in the Northern Rockies, including Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.
The petition also asked for protections for wolves in Eastern Washington and Oregon, and a small corner of north-central Utah, as well as alternatives for a DPS designation for wolves in California, Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona.
In making the announcement to review the requests, USFWS writes: "The Service finds that the petitions present substantial, credible information indicating that a listing action may be warranted and will initiate a comprehensive status review of the gray wolf in the western U.S." The petitioners had argued that recent actions by state legislators enacting policies such as hunting and trapping to "rapidly reduce" wolf populations could "potentially jeopardize the security of wolf populations and the sustainability of legitimate uses."
The USFWS found "new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate to address this threat. The decision to review wolf protections will start on Sept. 17, with details on how public comments can be submitted to be published in the Federal Register. The review window is 12 months.
The decision comes as both Idaho and Montana wolf hunting seasons are underway, or expanding, in the coming weeks using more liberal rules to allow more wolves to be taken. Wolves had been "de-listed" by Congressional action in 2011 but the listing status has been the continued source of debate and lawsuits in the years since.