Department of the Interior

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For Immediate Release:
January 5, 2006
Hugh Vickery, 202-208-6416
David Patte, FWS, 503-231-6121

Norton, Kempthorne Sign Agreement Turning Over Most Management of Wolves In Idaho to the State

(BOISE, Idaho) - Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne today signed a Memorandum of Agreement transferring most of the responsibility for managing gray wolves in central Idaho from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state wildlife officials.

The agreement covers the management of the experimental, non-essential population of gray wolves south of Interstate 90, an area that encompasses most of the state. Wolves north of Interstate 90 are protected under the Endangered Species Act as an endangered species. The Service is completing the application process for a permit to allow the state to manage wolves in the Idaho Panhandle north of Interstate 90.

Populations of wolves in Idaho have flourished since the Service introduced them in the state in 1995. In 2004, there were at least 422 wolves in Idaho, including 27 breeding pairs, nearly three times the recovery goal.

Idaho will manage the species in accordance with a conservation and management plan developed by the state and approved by the Service in anticipation of removal of wolves in the northern Rockies from the list of threatened and endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

"Wolves have thrived in Idaho far above expectations," Secretary Norton said. "We've reached the point biologically where management should be turned over to the state, which is in the best interest of both the wolves and the citizens of Idaho who live near them."

"I commend Governor Kempthorne and the state of Idaho for their dedication and professionalism in developing a wolf management plan that commits to maintaining wolf population levels above recovery goals while assuring the necessary flexibility to protect public safety, property, pets and livestock," Norton said.

"This agreement gives Idaho the flexibility to take over many of the wolf management responsibilities currently performed by the federal government -- the day to day operations of wolf management," Kempthorne said. "While total state management of these fully recovered wolf populations remains the ultimate goal, today marks an important step forward for Idaho."

Under the terms of the agreement, Idaho will assume many of the Service's wolf management duties. These include implementing control actions for problem wolves, relocating wolves to avoid human conflicts, taking wolves for scientific and other purposes, and many other functions related to the experimental, non-essential population.

The agreement allows Idaho to implement only the provisions of its Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan of 2002 consistent with federal regulations governing the experimental population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will retain all law enforcement authority until the gray wolf is delisted.

The Service is prepared to propose to remove the Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection when the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have Service-approved state plans for managing wolves within their borders. So far, Idaho and Montana have approved plans but Wyoming does not.

"Wolves are ready to be delisted and turned over to states and tribes for management," Norton said. "Until we can do that, however, we want to recognize Idaho and Montana's management plans and give them as much opportunity as allowed by law to take over management of the species."

The agreement is effective through March 2010 or until amended or wolves are delisted.

"We expect that the active participation of Idaho Department of Fish and Game in wolf conservation and management will increase the ability to handle local management concerns and needs," said Dave Allen, director of the Service's Pacific Region, which includes Idaho. "The professional depth and state-wide presence of the IDFG organization will provide for more resources to manage wolves and conserve the wolf population above recovery levels."