Fangs & Bangs

Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Wolf Recovery Coordinator in Helena, thinks he just might be able to put himself out of a job in the next few years. And nothing could sound sweeter to the oft-maligned bio-crat who often finds himself between a rancher and a hard place.

Although full delisting, or removal of protections granted by the Endangered Species Act, of wolves is still but a twinkle in Bangs’ eye, the reins are being handed over early to state managers in a unique show of good faith. With more than 850 wolves now roaming across their native habitat in three predominately pro-Bush states, the Feds feel that biological recovery goals have been met. They announced earlier this year that much of their authority over killing problem-causing wolves would be handed over to wildlife agencies in Montana and Idaho.

Wyoming, whose post-delisting wolf management plan was rejected by USFWS last winter, has been left out of the early-management club due to the Cowboy State’s stubborn opposition to crafting a reasonable and prudent post-delisting management plan. Lawsuits have been swirling like a dust devil, and ongoing litigation against the USFWS position likely won’t be resolved until later this spring.

Meanwhile, conservation groups in Montana appear to be cautiously optimistic about the power shift. “With more state-level participation in wolf management,” says Katie Craig, a wolf advocate with the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club in Bozeman, “wildlife managers in Montana and Idaho will now have the chance to prove themselves by continuing the success the federal government has had in bringing wild wolves back from extinction in the West.”

As for Bangs, he’s ready to trade the old grind for a new grind. A recent article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle suggested that he might be ready to find work as a barista in a local coffee shop. Whether or not he’s serious, he’s definitely ready to be out of the hot seat. Commenting on this whimsical new line of work, he added, “People come to you for something they want, you give it to them and they thank you.” If only wolf management were that simple.