March 11, 2009

By Joyce Campbell

Wolves in the Methow Valley remain under the full protection of the national Endangered Species Act while gray wolves in several Rocky Mountain and Great Lakes states will soon be managed and protected by state wildlife agencies.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar affirmed an earlier decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species in the western Great Lakes and the northern Rocky Mountain states of Idaho and Montana and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah.

“This doesn’t affect wolves in the Methow Valley one bit,” said Madonna Luers, public information officer for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There will be no impact on their status and they remain state and federally protected.”

The new ruling draws a line through eastern Washington along Highway 97 in Okanogan County. East of the line, the state would have complete authority. West of the line, an existing agreement between the WDFW and USFWS provides for consultation between the agencies for management of predation or other complaints, according to Tom Buckley, spokesperson for the USFWS in Spokane.

The back-and-forth decisions regarding delisting the gray wolf involved court challenges by conservation groups led by Defenders of Wildlife and a review by the Obama administration. Defenders of Wildlife claim on its website that the new rule suffers from the same fundamental scientific and legal flaws as the previous rule, and would allow wolf populations to be reduced to the point where the long-term survival would be threatened.

The new rule to de-list gray wolves will take affect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which is likely later this week, according to Buckley.

State and federal biologists confirmed a gray wolf pack in the Methow Valley in 2008. For more information on gray wolves visit the Western Wolf Coalition or the WDFW