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Wyo. Sues U.S. Over Wolf-Plan Rejection

The Associated Press
Thursday, April 22, 2004; 11:49 PM

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Wyoming sued the government Thursday over its rejection of the state's wolf management plan. In a complaint filed in federal court, the state accused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of exceeding its authority, ignoring science and violating the Federal Procedures Act in rejecting the Wyoming plan.

"The (agency) disregarded the best scientific and commercial data available ... and rejected the Wyoming plan based on political considerations, fear of litigation by environmental groups, and speculation regarding Montana and Idaho adopting plans similar to the Wyoming plan," the state argued.

The government is requiring Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to each submit acceptable plans for managing wolves before removing the animals from Endangered Species Act protection.

Management plans from Idaho and Montana have been accepted. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Wyoming's plan in January, citing concerns with the state's dual classification of wolves - as trophy game animals with strict protections in northwest Wyoming and as predators in the rest of the state that can be shot more or less on sight.

Nearly eradicated in the early 20th century, wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and have since thrived. Twelve packs now inhabit the park and six roam outside the park in Wyoming.

Many ranchers feel wolves are killing too many cattle and state wildlife, putting their livelihoods in jeopardy.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal said the time had come to defend the interests of Wyoming ranchers and hunting guides.

"I'm past being reluctant. I'm irritated," he said. "I mean, let's get this going. This will determine how wolves will be managed in Wyoming forever."

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, expected the agency's decision to hold up in federal court. "We have no problem with defending our position," he said.

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