The rule was previously overturned by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy last August, but a rider on the federal appropriations bill passed last month removed Northern Rocky Mountain wolves from the list of endangered species and returned management to the states.
Officials say the removal is justified because wolves in the region have, in fact, recovered and are no longer in need of protection.
"The recovery of the gray wolf is another success story of the Endangered Species Act," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "The gray wolf's biological recovery reflects years of work."
Gov. Butch Otter lauded the service's decision yesterday, saying Idaho has always managed wolves responsibly despite not supporting reintroduction from the beginning.
"We didn't want them here at all," he said, adding that the relatively low numbers originally proposed helped the state support the plan. "They said, ‘Don't worry about it, because you will only have 100 wolves.' It is estimated we have over 1,700. So we have far exceeded their expectations."
Current estimates place the population of wolves in Idaho at a minimum of 705, though Idaho Department of Fish and Game Big Game Manager John Rachael told the Idaho Statesman that he believes the number is closer to 1,000.
Conservationists say they are disappointed by the congressional move last month, but are cautiously optimistic about state management.
"The action taken by Congress and the Obama administration last month to strip federal protections for wolves was unwarranted," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of national wildlife advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife. "However, wolves can still have a bright future in the Northern Rockies if states manage them responsibly as they have promised in the past."
Otter said the Fish and Game Commission is developing a state management plan similar to the one issued in 2008, which set the state wolf population goal at 518 to 732 wolves. Quotas for a 2011-2012 wolf hunt may be set this summer with the quotas for other big game.