Utah Senator Orrin Hatch teamed up with a Wyoming lawmaker this week to highlight his efforts to get the gray wolf removed from the Endangered Species List. Some local groups strongly support this plan, while some think it's the wrong path for Utah.
“Wolves are an animal that are very good at doing what they do, which is breeding and eating," says Ryan Benson, co-founder of Big Game Forever, which advocates for the protection of wildlife herds. His group thinks not enough has been done to stop the spread of wolves and now everyone's paying the price: “When they’re eating people’s cattle and when they’re depressing wildlife populations the economic impacts of that are really tough. People have lost their ranches...a lot of people, and it’s unnecessary.”
Benson, along with several other outdoor activists who would like to see wolves taken off the endangered species list, met Wednesday with Senator Orrin Hatch and Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming to discuss the issue. Hatch says he wants the federal government to let the states control wolves: “Our state can manage them and would do so in a very impressive and good way. But there are people back there in the federal government who think only the federal government can do anything.”
Hatch is co-sponsoring a bill with the Wyoming Senator that would remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves that have been in place since 1972. They were recently de-listed in Idaho and Montana, along with parts of Utah and other western states. The Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering whether to de-list the wolf throughout Wyoming as well. For Hatch it's all about economics:
“It involves billions of dollars. It really does. One of the most important industries in Utah is hunting...fishing...people don’t realize this. But there was a time that they were because of the predators thinned down to almost nothing.”
But Kirk Robinson, Executive Director of Western Wildlife Conservancy disagrees with taking the grey wolf off of the endangered species list, saying the predators play an important part in ecosystems.
“There is just a ever increasing body of science of shows that without wolves relations among species and between plants and animals become unstable and chaotic and ground cover is lost...streams erode.”
There are no known wolf packs in Utah, but the Division of Wildlife Resources is currently investigating reports of wolves or wolf hybrids that may have been spotted in Utah County.