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Group of Lawmakers discusses ways to get Wolves Delisted

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — In an unprecedented collaboration, state legislators from Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have formed a commission to find how the three states can get wolves removed from the federal endangered species list and put under state control.

The committee, which held its first meeting last weekend in Salt Lake City, was created in the wake of a federal court ruling in August that overturned wolf management plans in Montana and Idaho on the grounds that protections for the same population can’t vary by each state.

Wyoming wolves have always remained under federal protection, though the state is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force the agency to accept its proposed state management plan, which would allow unregulated killing of the animals in all but the northwest part of the state.

As a result, several members of the committee — unofficially named the Tri-State Wolf Compact Commission — said the states are now forced to work in unison if they hope to comply with U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy’s decision and convince the Fish and Wildlife Service to accept their management plans.

The commission includes six members from Idaho and four each from Montana and Wyoming. The Idaho and Montana members were appointed by their legislative leaders. The four Wyoming members include House Speaker Colin Simpson, R-Cody; state Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee; state Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan; and state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie.

All commissioner members share the same goal of finding a way to delist wolves.

So far, the commission is still in its early stages, and the goal right now is for members to swap information and understand the situation in all three states. But several members said the commission, if successful, could eventually draft recommendations and potential legislation for each state.

“What it’s about is trying to get this thing resolved, and Judge Molloy made it clear that the three states are in this barrel together,” Brown said.

Republican Jim Shockley, a Montana state senator, said Montana and Idaho lawmakers on the committee can work with their Wyoming colleagues to draw up a Wyoming wolf management plan that can win federal support.

“The (state wildlife) agencies have worked with it — now maybe the legislators need to get involved,” Shockley said.

The commission was created last month during a Council of State Governments-West conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

“I was looking at all these guys from Wyoming and Montana sitting there, and I just stood up and asked if anybody was interested in getting together to talk about wolf delisting,” said commission member Jeff Siddoway, a Republican state senator from Idaho.

“And the next morning we had about 80 people there. … It was all just a spur-of-the-moment deal.”

The commission plans to meet again Saturday in Salt Lake City; a deputy director of the Fish and Wildlife Service has been invited to the meeting as well. Commission members have also talked of traveling around the three states to meet with supporters of delisting, including stockgrowers, farming and hunting groups.

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