Wolf Conservation photo

Effective today, the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies and the Great Lakes states will be taken off the Endangered Species List and placed under the management of the states like the rest of our valued wildlife.

The wolf issue has been a long struggle, and a wild ride here in the Rocky Mountains. People in the West have been exhausted by what Montana Wildlife Federation’s Ben Lamb once called, “the absolute intransigence of both sides, the wolf huggers over here and the shoot-shovel-shut up crowd over there, leering at each other and making smart remarks while everybody else is left trying to find a solution.” Senator Jon Tester of Montana and Representative Alan Simpson of Idaho have done a tremendous job in walking right into the middle of a blistering debate and creating a solution. It is a solution hated by the most radical environmental groups, and deemed unacceptable by the perpetually furious anti-wolf crowd. So it is probably just about dead-on.

The hunters who come to the Field and Stream website know what a monumental day this is, both for us, for big game, and for the gray wolf. Because wolf re-introduction, however hotly contested it has been, is a remarkable success story of the recovery of a species, and a species that almost no other nation on earth would have tried to recover. Love them or hate them, or just feel, as I do that, as the old saying goes about difficult people, “the world needs a few of them, even if it can’t take a lot of them.”

The solution crafted by Senator Tester and Representative Simpson, and adopted by the Department of Interior, effective May 5th, returns the wolves to state management in Idaho and Montana, and will allow state management in parts of Utah, Oregon, and Washington as the wolves expand their ranges into and within those areas.

When Wyoming comes up with an acceptable plan to manage their wolves without exterminating them, they’ll be in control of them, too. The US Fish and Wildlife Service will maintain a role in monitoring wolf populations and gathering data, which is a good thing, because it means we’ll know more in years to come than we know. It will be extremely difficult for anyone to use lawsuits to put the wolf population back on the Endangered Species List, as has been done too many times before.

Hooray for elected officials who shoulder burdens well, and offer a reasoned response to a screeching match that has gone on too long and fed too many agendas that had too little to do with wolves or elk or wildlife and wild places. Hooray for the North American Model of Wildlife Management, and the restoration of our magnificent big game herds, and the protection of their habitat, that mighty success story of American hunting, without which there could be no wolves, no wolf lovers, no wolf haters.