Montana's top wildlife official said his agency will appeal the recent district court ruling that returned the region's wolves to the federal endangered species list.
Joe Maurier, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, told a coalition of wildlife conservation and livestock groups last Friday that Montana has "a recovered wolf population and we will appeal."
FWP officials met in Helena with the group that included stockgrowers, woolgrowers, farm associations and several conservation and hunting organizations. Maurier told the group that Montana would appeal the district court decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by Sept. 5 to meet the 30-day appeal deadline.
Maurier said at least 525 wolves live in Montana and FWP had hoped to reduce the state's year end wolf population to about 450 this year by using a combination of management tools, including hunting.
The ruling halted Montana's efforts to maintain authority to manage a viable and connected wolf population yet still reduce wolf impacts on big game populations and livestock producers, Maurier said
FWP joined in a federal lawsuit in defense of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2009 decision to delist wolves in Montana and Idaho, but not in Wyoming. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, however, reinstated federal protections of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains on Aug. 5.
Bob Lane, FWP's chief legal counsel, outlined for the group several additional remedies FWP is pursuing. "The endgame for Montana is to regain state management and a delisted wolf species," Lane said. "We are committed to come out with state management and we won't concede that point."
Lane also said FWP will petition the USFWS to allow for a conservation hunting season; to provide authority to remove wolves in some areas where they are impacting other wildlife populations; to provide for a more aggressive response to livestock depredations; and to down list wolves from "endangered" to "threatened" in the northern portion of Montana.
Several groups at the meeting championed federal legislative efforts in Washington, D.C. to resolve the wolf issue. In response, Maurier said FWP is eager to participate.
The wolf population in the Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Area, which comprises parts of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, was estimated to be at least 1,706, with 242 packs, and 115 breeding pairs at the end of last year. About 525 wolves were estimated to inhabit Montana, in 100 packs and 34 breeding pairs.