Gray wolves in Idaho and Montana would go off the federal endangered species list and returned to state oversight, under a settlement deal announced Friday. The tentative agreement is between 10 environmental groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Last year, a federal judge sided with environmentalists and restored the endangered status of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.
The new settlement recognizes that wolves have rebounded in Idaho and Montana. It transfers management authority back to state wildlife officials in those two states.
But federal protections would remain in Oregon and Washington, where the wolf numbers are still small.
Bill Snape of the says delisting wolves in two states was a concession by environmentalists. In return, he says the federal government agreed to more region-wide, scientific studies on wolves.
Bill Snape: “So instead of, ‘Well, a couple of wolves in Yellowstone, a couple wolves in central Idaho, a couple wolves in northern Idaho and Montana, that’s enough!’ we’re saying, ‘No, what we want is a truly healthy, viable population of wolves in the northern Rockies.’”
Not all of the environmental groups in the original lawsuit went along. Three broke off from the deal earlier this week.
The proposed settlement must receive court approval before it can take effect.