Utah conservationists want wolves to stay listed

Sep 28 2012 - 12:09pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- More than a dozen Utah conservation groups are asking the federal government to continue endangered species protections for wolves in Utah, allowing for gray wolves to migrate naturally into the state from the north and Mexican gray wolves to do the same in southern Utah.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the groups say they are concerned with a planned delisting of the gray wolf across the lower 48 states and worry about the health of the Mexican gray wolf population near the southern border.

In 2011, wolves were delisted from endangered species protections in Idaho, Montana and the northeast corner of Utah and put under the management of state wildlife officials. They were delisted in Wyoming last month. Wolves remain federally protected elsewhere in Utah.

The complete delisting of gray wolves across the lower 48 states had been scheduled for Sunday but was postponed for several months, Kirk Robinson of the Western Wildlife Conservancy told The Salt Lake Tribune for a story Thursday.

Meanwhile, there are fewer than 100 surviving Mexican gray wolves, and they will likely become extinct without a larger recovery area, Robinson said.

Utah had been under consideration for extending the recovery area for Mexican gray wolves, but behind-the-scenes maneuvering may have eliminated that prospect, according to the conservationists' letter.

"We want Salazar to know there is a growing constituency of Utahns who know what's going on," said Robinson, one of the letter's signers.

In 2010, state lawmakers passed legislation directing the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to manage wolves to prevent establishment of a viable pack in any areas where they are not listed as threatened or endangered.

Randy Parker, CEO of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, said wolf packs in Wyoming have decimated sheep and elk herds, and allowing the species to naturally reintroduce itself to Utah is anathema to agriculture interests.

"We want the state of Utah to hold the line on the wolf plan and the state law," he said.


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