The U.S. Department of the Interior has finalized a new rule delisting the gray wolf in the lower 48 states, allowing state and tribal governments to develop their own locally-tailored management plans.

After being shot down by federal judges on the last four wolf delisting attempts, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is trying a fifth time to alleviate the federal stranglehold that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) helped create.

Wolf proponents have used the act and federal courts to keep total federal control, arguing that recovered wolf populations in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota should be maintained unchecked in order to help re-populate other states.

The newest argument from the agency is that the Endangered Species Act does not require wolves to be present throughout all of its former range, or for populations to be at historical levels for delisting to occur.

“The measure under the ESA is whether wolves are in danger of extinction (endangered) or at risk of becoming so in the foreseeable future (threatened), throughout all or a significant portion of its range,” the agency said. “By any scientific measure, gray wolves no longer meet the ESA’s standard for protection and so should be delisted.”

The rub here of course is the specific requirement about not being endangered or threatened in “all or a significant portion of its range.” You can expect wolf activists to again file suit on the basis that recovered wolf populations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Wyoming do not represent a “significant portion” of the gray wolf’s historic range.

Because of that, we believe the only solution to the outrageous wolf overpopulation in Wisconsin is congressional intervention that takes the Endangered Species Act out of the equation — giving states with recovered wolf populations the right to continue their own proven, sustainable management efforts.

We currently have as many as 1,500 wolves in a state with a management plan that calls for a population of 350 wolves. That population goal, set in 1999, is more than three times the federal standard for a recovered wolf population, which is 100 wolves outside of Indian reservations.

Wisconsin hunters, farmers, ranchers and property owners have been forced in this heavy-handed federal travesty to put up with far too many wolves, resulting in the loss of pets, livestock, deer and tens of thousands of dollars in depredation reimbursement costs.

U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin have previously introduced bipartisan legislation that would remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List in the western Great Lakes region. 

It’s time for Congress to reward the states that have recovered wolf numbers instead of allowing federal intervention to penalize those states. Wisconsin wolves are neither endangered nor threatened under state management.

Behind the editorial ‘we’

   Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and reporters Doug Etten and Michelle Drew.