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Coalition plans suit over wolves

By MIKE STARK Of The Gazette Staff

A coalition of 27 associations and counties from Wyoming and elsewhere plans to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its handling of wolves and its refusal to approve Wyoming's proposed wolf management plan.

The group, calling itself the "Wolf Coalition," sent a notice of intent to file civil suit to the Fish and Wildlife Service last week, saying that a lawsuit would be filed in 60 days for violations of the Endangered Species Act.

The group says the federal government has not met its obligations in properly handling wolves and their effects since they were reintroduced to the northern Rocky Mountains in 1995 and 1996. Wolves have "severely damaged" livestock and wildlife populations along with local agriculture businesses, the coalition says. The group says the wolf population has far exceeded original goals and Wyoming should not be forced to allow them to spread across the state.

"The deal from the beginning was that the gray wolf would be introduced into and managed in the Yellowstone area," Kathleen Davison, a Lincoln County (Wyo.) commissioner said in a statement Tuesday. "The FWS is now trying to force Wyoming to adopt a management plan that ensures that the wolves move throughout the state. That is directly contrary to everything that the FWS told us when they brought wolves into Yellowstone."

The group also says it will challenge the rejection of Wyoming's wolf management plan.

The State of Wyoming filed a lawsuit earlier this year over the federal government's refusal to approve the state's wolf management plan.

The Wolf Coalition includes livestock groups, county commissions, sportsmen, outfitters, guides and others.