State blasted over wolves
Opponents highly critical of
Gevock of The Montana Standard - 08/12/2006
Ranchers and wolf opponents who packed a special meeting in Ennis Friday blasted state
wildlife officials for the way they have handled wolf management since taking over from
the federal government last year.
Officials with the Montana
Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks have been too slow to authorize the killing of
problem wolves and at times have hampered federal trappers from lethal control on state
lands, more than a dozen people told members of the agency oversight committee of the
Environmental Quality Council.
Its like a guys robbing a bank and you have to go get an arrest warrant,
committee member Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, said. It doesnt make a lot of
sense. More than 50 people showed up for the meeting that drew FWP Director Jeff
Hagener, agency biologists and several state legislators. The meeting also drew people
from Idaho and Wyoming, ranchers and members of anti-wolf groups pushing for
indiscriminate killing of the predators.
A few members of conservation groups also showed up and praised FWP for the job its
done since taking over wolf management from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year.
FWP is doing an excellent job balancing the needs of wildlife, livestock producers
and sportsmen, said Tim Border with the Montana Wildlife Federation.
But the majority of the
crowd ripped FWP, saying the agencys reluctance to decide to kill a wolf has let too
many problem animals get away.
Shockley said when ranchers were dealing directly with federal officials, problem wolves
could be taken care of quickly. But since the state has taken over, things take too long.
It was working, why didnt we just leave it the way it was? he said.
Critics were particularly incensed by FWPs policy of approving any control measures
before they take place on state game ranges.
Were concerned that the wildlife management areas will become sanctuaries,
said sheep rancher Joe Helle, who lives near Dillon.
But Kurt Alt, FWP Southwest Montana wildlife manager, said thats the last thing
biologists want to happen. FWP, as the manager of game ranges, merely wants to inspect any
potential livestock kills to ensure it can back up killing problem wolves when its
Alt said thats crucial because people have criticized grazing on the game ranges and
would rather see cattle removed. But the rotational grazing is important for improving
grass and he doesnt want that jeopardized.
Well be able to support our actions to our worst critics and our biggest
supporters, he said. It does not mean that WMAs will become safe havens for
wolves that kill livestock. The misconception that FWP was banning lethal control on
game ranges came about because of a misunderstanding between the state agency and Wildlife
Services, said Carolyn Sime, FWP wolf program coordinator. She agreed both agencies need
to communicate better.
But although FWP decides when a wolf can be killed, it cant give Wildlife Services
permission to trespass on other lands such as U.S. Forest Service or private lands, Sime
Larry Handegard, a trapper with Wildlife Services, said his agency has always had to have
permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to kill wolves and now needs it from
Some people criticized the entire wolf program and said it was illegal to begin with. They
urged the committee to recommend the Legislature pass a bill to sue the federal government
so wolves can be taken off the federal Endangered Species List.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks has forfeited their right to manage these predators,
said Bob Fanning, president of Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, an anti-wolf
group. We need this in order to get this out-of-control bureaucratic nightmare under
control. FWP is anxious to get wolves delisted so it can begin to use hunting and
trapping to manage the population, Hagener said. The agency has been frustrated by the
federal governments unwillingness to delist wolves in Montana and Idaho, whose
management plans have been accepted, because of Wyomings plan that was rejected.
But Hagener said even once wolves are delisted, biologists will manage them to keep a
We view wolves as part of the wildlife of the state, he said. Were
going to have to learn how to live with them. State Rep. Diane Rice, R-Harrison,
said at the end of the meeting that she would like the EQC to pursue legislative action,
which could include joining lawsuits to get wolves delisted in Montana.
Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section
107, any copyrighted
material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit
research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: