Wyoming is revising its gray wolf management plan in hopes of placating concerns about providing enough protection for the animals, but environmentalists said the changes are inadequate because wolves can still be shot on sight in most of the state.
The state's revisions include new wording to clarify its commitment to maintain at least 15 breeding pairs of wolves and 150 individual wolves in the state and new wording that further restricts the state's ability to change trophy game boundaries.
By revising its management plan, Wyoming is trying to avoid being left out of a new attempt by the federal government to remove the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies from the endangered species list.
But a representative of an environmental group advocating for the predator said the state's proposed changes are still not sufficient.
"We do not feel that this plan goes far enough," Sierra Club representative Melanie Stein said.
The move by Wyoming comes after a federal judge in Montana recently restored the predator's endangered status. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had stripped wolves of federal protection and transferred control over the animals to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
All three states adopted management plans that set up trophy game areas where controlled hunting of wolves would be permitted outside of national parks.
Wyoming's plan went further by establishing an additional predator area where wolves could be shot on sight across most of the state. The idea was to allow ranchers to protect their livestock from wolves.
Environmental groups argue the shoot-on-sight provision cannot be part of any management plan, and U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy criticized Wyoming's plan when he initially ruled in July on a lawsuit filed by the environmental groups.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has since announced a new initiative to end federal protections for gray wolves in Montana and Idaho while leaving them in place in Wyoming.
In an attempt to avoid being left out of the process, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal approved emergency rule changes to the state management plan.
However, the predator provision remains in the Wyoming plan because it is codified in state law and can only be changed by the Wyoming Legislature, which doesn't meet again until next January.