In a phone call to U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., today, Salazar committed to the visit to "aggressively pursue a solution" to the years-long dispute over wolves. In response, Barrasso announced that he will quit blocking a vote to confirm Ashe as Fish and Wildlife director.
Wyoming has been fighting Fish and Wildlife for years to accept the state's wolf management plan and remove the state's roughly 300 wolves from the federal endangered species list.
The state's plan allows unregulated killing of the animals in all but the northwest corner of the state. Fish and Wildlife wants wolves to be classified as "trophy game" throughout the state, meaning they could only be hunted with a license.
Salazar met with Gov. Matt Mead in March about wolves, suggesting a deadline of a month to reach an agreement on a management plan.
After the meeting, Wyoming's wolf negotiators sent a formal letter to Fish and Wildlife detailing the state's position, said Mead spokesman Renny MacKay. But for the next 40 days or so, they received no reply.
In response, Barrasso placed the hold on Ashe's nomination on May 27. Under Senate rules, any senator can secretly place a "hold" against a bill or nomination, preventing a Senate vote from taking place.
On June 6, Fish and Wildlife sent a formal response to the state's letter. Negotiations have continued since then, MacKay said.
In a media release, Barrasso said he appreciated Salazar's commitment to quickly resolving the issue.
Barrasso is only the latest in a line of Republican senators who have held up Ashe's nomination in order to resolve grievances against the Interior Department and the Obama administration. But Obama administration officials have negotiated deals with those holds; Barrasso's hold is the only known remaining hold on Ashe's nomination.
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