States should manage Gray Wolves in Utah

When northern Utah residents say the wolf is at the door, they are not using a figure of speech. Wolf sightings in the Beehive State are on the upswing – and unlike reports of Elvis or Easter Bunny sightings, the talk is not idle chitchat.
 
This past summer, for example, state agricultural officials confirmed that wolves killed two livestock in Summit County about three miles south of the Utah-Wyoming line. Around the same time, a ranch hand in northern Utah shot a wolf that was threatening livestock – the first wolf shot in the state in more than 70 years.
 
In 2002, wolves killed 15 sheep and lambs near Hardware Ranch in Cache County, and a trapper caught a gray wolf in the mountains above Morgan. A member of Yellowstone’s Druid Peak Pack, the wolf had wandered into Utah and was taken back to Wyoming. State wildlife professionals and others have also seen and heard wolves in other parts of the state.
 
Given the evidence, Utahns are clearly not crying wolf about Canis lupus. Unfortunately, we in Utah are powerless to do anything about the growing problem. That’s because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided this fall to reinstate protections under the Endangered Species Act for gray wolves in north-central Utah, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and eastern Oregon and Washington, even though their numbers are soaring and they now pose a significant threat to livestock and wildlife.
 
That is why I, along with my Senate colleagues in Wyoming and Idaho, have introduced the Returning Wolf Management to the States Act. Our bill would put wolf management in the hands of dedicated state professionals who have a proven track record for successfully managing elk, deer and other wildlife. If enacted into law, it also would put a stop to further litigation and pre-empt outstanding lawsuits, which is what prompted the reinstatement after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the gray wolf from protection in 2009.
 
Federal mismanagement of the gray wolf is unconscionable. Scientific data shows that gray wolves are not endangered and are now increasingly preying on livestock and clamping down on elk and other wildlife herds. Utah has worked hard to protect abundant populations of elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mule deer, bison, mountain goats, antelope, and wild turkeys. 
 
We need to protect our sportsmen, woolgrowers, and ranchers. It is time for federal judges and Washington bureaucrats to get out of the way and let the states responsibly manage gray wolves. I stand committed to resolve this issue before wolves are able to destroy hunting in Utah and cause irreparable damage to our woolgrowers and ranchers.
 
Again, Utah ranchers and sports enthusiasts are not crying wolf about this problem. They should not be made to cry “uncle.” I will continue to do all I can to ensure that they won’t.
 
Sen. Orrin Hatch is a member of the Senate Western Caucus. 

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