On Wednesday, September 22nd, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho introduced SB 3825 (.PDF), which would remove the Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the list of threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the states of Idaho and Montana.  The proposed legislation, titled the State Wolf Management Act of 2010, is intended to turn wolf management over to the states to promote certainty among citizens, hunters, and sheep and cattle ranchers.  The bill was introduced in response to a federal court’s ruling in early August, which put gray wolves in Idaho and Montana under the protection of the ESA.

In Defenders of Wildlife v. Salazar (.PDF), plaintiffs asserted, among other things, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had violated the ESA by de-listing the gray wolf in the states of Montana and Idaho while leaving federal protections in place for wolves in Wyoming.  In ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, Judge Donald Molloy held that the FWS had violated the ESA by only listing distinct population segments of the gray wolf as endangered.  The court found that the ESA mandates that the entire region’s wolf population be listed as an endangered species, rather than the wolf’s status being different from state to state.  The court’s ruling reinstated the federal protections on the gray wolf in all three states until Wyoming brings its wolf management into alignment with Idaho and Montana.

Idaho and Montana have successfully restored the wolf population within their borders in recent years, and the proposed legislation reflects the position that the states can manage the wolves in a sustainable and responsible way.  The increase in the wolf population has brought livestock losses for ranchers, and, according to the Billings Gazette, the bill would enable Idaho and Montana to reinstate a wolf hunting quota to help manage the wolf population.  The bill would require the Department of the Interior to de-list the gray wolf in Idaho and Montana, as well as in limited portions of Washington, Oregon and Utah, within one year.  The bill is currently before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.