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New administration impacts wolf status

by Brandon RobertsWestern News
| January 26, 2009 11:00 PM

Just 48 hours into his new administration, President Barack Obama placed a moratorium on former President George W. Bush’s 11th-hour measures.

“The use of an executive order to freeze what is in the pipeline for review has become standard operating procedure,” said David Parker, political science professor at Montana State University. “It is the normal dance of politics.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s effort to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list in the northern Rockies and the western Great Lakes regions is one of the measures up for re-evaluation.

Kent Laudon, wolf management specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the move was not political. However, he fears it may become so in the near future.

“This move is not directly specific to wolves,” Laudon said, “even though some groups are making it sound as if it was. Trying to link it to Bush is a bad deal. I think those groups will try to get (Obama’s) ear.”

Laudon said FWS has been attempting to turn over wolf management to the states since 2002.

“The wolf population is recovered,” he said. “My hope is that (FWS) looks at it so the next best conservation move is for the species and Montana to take over management and deal with wolves with no special status.”

In a press release dated Jan. 14, President of Defenders of Wildlife Rodger Schlickeisen said, “We look forward to working with the new administration to fix (delisting) and to ensure wolf recovery that truly merits taking wolves off the endangered species list.”

The Defenders of Wildlife was a successful litigant when FWS made an effort to delist in 2008 and according to Schlickeisen – they will seek another injunction if a similar action is pursued.

Wolves were first listed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act in March 1967 and reintroduced to Montana in November 1994.

Laudon said the FWP consists of “professional scientists and managers who are transparent and objective. We serve the people and the resource.”

There is no established timeline on when an FWS decision would be issued.