Missoulian: Baucus, Tester introduce bill to return wolf management to Montana

Montana and Idaho could win back state management of gray wolves through legislation offered by Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester late Tuesday.

The state’s two Democratic senators introduced their bill in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg drafted a bill removing wolves from Endangered Species Act protection on Sept. 15, but has not introduced it yet.

Baucus and Tester’s bill would remove Rocky Mountain gray wolves from the federal threatened or endangered species lists in Montana and Idaho as soon as the Secretary of Interior approves each state’s wolf management plans. Both states already have such plans, which would limit wolf numbers by both government and public hunting.

Rehberg’s draft bill is considerably simpler. It would amend the Endangered Species Act to read: “Any Rocky Mountain gray wolf in Idaho or Montana shall not be treated as an endangered species,” and would give those states “exclusive jurisdiction” to manage wolves.

Government wildlife managers estimate there are at least 1,700 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Montana is believed to have at least 524 wolves and 37 breeding pairs.

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