Friday’s meeting of the Montana Wolf Management Advisory Council leaves me even more concerned about the fate of the grey wolf in the west.
The original council, consisting of a dozen individuals, were instrumental in developing Montana’s wolf management plan back in 2000. They met again in 2007. Called in by Governor Bullock and Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Director Jeff Hagener, ten members gathered Friday with FWP officials to discuss how well the wolf plan has been carried out.
For a group that is called a “citizens council” the Wolf Council seems to lean heavily on the side of livestock production and hunting. For example, the chairman of the group is Chase Hibbard of Billings, an avid hunter, outfitter, and a rancher.
Another rancher and former Republican Representative, Bruce Malcom, went so far as to suggest a bounty to limit wolf populations. I had hoped that word would never come up again in regards to wolves.
There was also talk of gathering a list of trappers in case wolves begin to overrun the state. It appears fear and control have become the catchwords of wolf management
There were some positives that emerged from Friday’s meeting. Biologist Mike Jiminez of the USFWS gave an insightful discourse on the status of wolves before and after delisting.
Wolfwatcher representative Brad Orsted made the wise suggestion that the Governor, “… assemble a new council comprised of not only ranchers and sportsman but a fair share of independent biologists and citizens of Montana who are also affected by wolf management policies.”
And Wolves of the Rockies Marc Cooke had a seat at the Wolf Council table, a huge step toward a more just and hopeful future for wolves . With Marc’s permission I am sharing with you their review of the meeting. Don’t miss reading Kim Bean’s blog post as well. It can be found on the WotR website.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock opened the MtWAC
WOLF COUNCIL SUMMARY
On April 12th, 2013 in Helena, Montana at MFWP Headquarters, the Wolf Advisory Council reconvened at the request of Governor Steve Bullock.
Wolves of the Rockies had a seat at the table, and we discussed one topic with many components.
Governor Bullock opened with a short statement about the importance of the Wolf Advisory Council.
Ken McDonald and George Pauley went over many of the wolf plan management components. They are concerned about new laws coming from the current Montana Legislative session.
Right now in Montana there are approximately 50 collared wolves.
Research is critical in helping the decision makers in making informed science based decisions.
Humans have the greatest impact on elk herd sizes.
MtFWP George Pauley covered many topics
There was great concern over the entire Yellowstone National Park wolf situation.
Wolves of the Rockies shared their concerns about Yellowstone wolves, and their value to the economy of local residents and businesses in Gardiner, and areas along the border of YNP. We emphasized research from the Yellowstone Wolf Program is priceless. Several members of the audience participated by reaffirming the importance of Yellowstone wolves.
Getting back to the council members, several encouraged the decision makers not to treat Yellowstone wolves any different than other wolves in Montana, as it would set a precedent that could snowball in the future.
Other council members said Yellowstone wolves are indeed different. They have a research and economic value for the local people as well as FWP and hunters alike.
Retired Legal Council for MtFWP Bob Lane
Furthermore there should be no cap on the amount of wolves in Montana. This could only lead to further concern down the road. The wolves should be treated like any other predator here in Montana: no caps.
It is hoped that house bills 73, which was signed by the governor in February, will give additional tools to help manage wolves, we need to be cautious of future legislation that will have an impact on wolf management. If wolf numbers drop to 200/250, this will trigger a revue with the Federal Government.
Cause for concern with FWP is funding. 2015 will be the last year the federal government will provide FWP funding for the wolf program ie., depredation loss compensation et al.
Montana is very concerned about where this funding will come from starting in 2016.
Caroline Sime, the former Wolf Management Coordinator for MT FWP, was asked to attend but declined.
Toward the end of the meeting the Chairman of the advisory council, Chase Hibbard, conducted a round-table discussion; where do we go from here?
L to R: Marc Cooke, Wolves of the Rockies, MtFWP Commissioner Bob Ream, Terry Beaver & Robin Hompesch
We need to improve social tolerance and the use of non-lethal measures.
Several members suggested allowing things in Montana to evolve naturally.
Many members believe the wolf management plan is balanced but are concerned with the increase in extreme attitudes toward wolves.
Some members believe that with new science the plan needs to be “tweaked” because of too many wolves in Montana.
One member suggested we let wolves find their own place on the landscape, and that we should manage by location not by population.
We need to let the public in on these plans and some advisory members believe that hunters and sportsmen have to give some.
The Blackfeet reservation plan is working well.
Some believe there is still a role for the Wolf Advisory Council or something similar.
Consensus was that the plan is going well but more aggressive outreach is needed.
We are moving from the recovery mode to the management mode and we need more public involvement, was not comfortable to having to do this but believe it to be essential.
One member would like to have a bounty on wolves in the future, as people will lose the incentive to hunt them.
We need to be very careful on the boundary around Yellowstone National Park. This would increase (in the eyes of some members) the boundary of the park.
It should be considered to alter or combine some of hunting districts to accommodate various needs. This was a response that was directed towards YNP.
L to R: Marc Cooke, Vice President Kim Bean WotR and Ilona Popper from The Bear Creek Council discussing wolf advisory issues at a break.
Wolves of the Rockies will continue to work with hunters, livestock owners/managers, and all other parties to increase public acceptance of wolves on the landscape.
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“Because we are their only voice”
Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Director Jeff Hagener
U.S.Fish & Wildlife Service NRM Wolf Recovery Program Coordinator Mike Jinenez
MtWAC Chair Chase Hibbard
Justin Gude from MtFWP gave a brief lecture on research of predators and ungulates