FWP began accepting comments in February on a state-run wolf management program. It marked the first step in the preparation of an environmental impact statement with the proposed action that the State of Montana will develop and implement a wolf conservation and management program.
Issue scoping allows the public to identify issues, concerns, and what it wants FWP to address in the EIS. FWP is required to allow at least 30 days for scoping under the Montana Environmental Policy Act. The agency, however, designed a 60-day process to ensure wider opportunities and more time to comment. FWP conducted community work sessions in 12 Montana towns in March and April, provided opportunities to comment on-line, in addition to taking comment via Fax and regular mail.
More than 800 people participated in the community work sessions and the agency received more than 4,000 comments between February and April. Comments were received from nearly every Montana county, 110 different Montana zip codes, 49 out of 50 states, and eight foreign countries.
The various alternatives will be developed based on these comments. The summary below capture the sentiment and offer a general picture of a representative cross section of comments. Comments are nearly verbatim and emerged from communities across Montana, as well as from many non-residents.
Comments from the work sessionsand from written and E-mail correspondence--were entered and summarized in their own individual data files, but with an identical file structure. The comments recorded on flip charts during the community work sessions were entered verbatim into an Access database, although spelling and grammar were corrected upon entry. Each comment was assigned a unique record number by the computer through Accesss autonumber function.
Upon receipt, each written comment or E-mail comment was assigned a unique number manually using a traditional stamp and ink pad system. All the emails were printed and filed with the other written comments.
All comments were entered into their respective Access database along with information about the origin of the comment, the city, state etc. All the comments were read by one of three people and many comments were reviewed by more than one person as a cross check for consistency. Each comment was assigned to a key word category shown in italics below. The keywords were also incorporated as fields into the respective data bases as a yes/no field. This allowed broadly defined suites of issues to be summarized and categorized according to frequency. Key word summaries represent issues/concerns mentioned in each individual comment or written letter; therefore, each individual comment may have several key words associated with it. Key word summary totals do not represent the individual number of comments received during the scoping period. There is also some thematic overlap in key word categories.
Because of the volume of comments received, this summary was prepared to capture the cross section of input and to help formulate alternatives in the EIS. It was interesting to note the differences in comments between the work sessions and the written letters as well as the geographic differences across the state for the work session comments. Some issues appear to be more regionally focused than others.
Representative comments are shown in bullet format. The alphanumeric code indicates the identification number in the computer database. S denotes comments recorded at the community work sessions and W denotes comments received through the mail or via E-mail. The number indicates the record number in the respective database. Comments are nearly verbatim for both databases; they were streamlined to remove unnecessary text while still preserving most of the original words.
Comments (2011 total) address the philosophies, tools, and strategies for wolf management, the numbers of wolves in Montana, and where they live.
803 comments address various social values associated with wolves and wolf management.
623 comments address state and federal responsibilities, the current status of wolves, their recovery, federal and state delisting processes, and the progress of planning efforts in other states.
501 comments address wolf impacts on Montana game populations and how wolves, game and other wildlife will be managed, and Montanas hunting heritage.
447 comments address wolf management costs and the source of funding.
414 comments adresss Montana's livestock industry and its importance and responsibilities; and government and private citizen actions when wolves kill livestock.
388 comments address the need for wolves to move freely through Montana, question how and where this will be accomplished, and how motorized travel and land use will be affected.
287 comments address payments to livestock producers and others who experience wolf depredation losses, and the funding and administration of a compensation program.
227 comments address the economic costs and benefits of wolves in Montana, including their effect on livelihoods, tourism, and fiscal impacts to FWP.
208 comments address the need for FWP to develop information and education techniques and programs to keep Montanans informed about wolf conservation and management, including human safety and technical assistance for landowners and other rural residents.
162 comments address concerns Montanans have for the safety of their children, their pets, and their livestock.
151 comments address how closely wildlife managers will keep tabs on wolf populations, pack sizes, and pack locations and the status of prey populations.
80 comments generally address concerns about non-ungulate wildlife species (e.g. listed species, other carnivores).
77 comments generally capture the sentiment of private property rights in regards to wolf presence on private property, protection of private property etc. Some comments assert landowners right to allow wolves on their private property. Other comments assert landowners right to control or manage wolves on their private property.
22 comments generally address concerns about the degree of regulatory oversight by FWP of captives and wolf-dog hybrids; whether these animals could be released into the wild; no comments were received in support of minimal regulation of captives and hybrids all favored increased regulation.
13 comments generally address wolf presence on FWP Wildlife Management Areas.
July 11, 2002 Scoping comment summary.doc
The format of the community work sessions was not designed to answer questions or to provide much specific information on what would be in Montanas plan. Rather it was designed primarily for FWP to gather information. Nonetheless, this key word captures information that is sought by the public and can also be a measure of whats on their mind. This key word captures questions for which there may be factual answers, questions which are rhetorical in nature, and questions whose answers are in the process of being developed under the different alternatives of the EIS. The comments that were key worded as Question were sorted a second time according to the same key words to assess ranking and to more effectively target future FWP public outreach efforts to these specific information needs. Clearly, many questions are beyond the scope of the EIS, beyond the jurisdiction of FWP authorities, or a matter that lies in the eye of the beholder.
Frequency of the second sort of Questions by key word indicates the following: Administration 92; Wolf Management 50; Wolf Numbers 44; Social Factors 39; Prey Populations 31; Funding 26; Human Safety 21; Compensation 14; Wolf Distribution 13; Livestock 13; Monitoring 11; Information/Education 8; Wolf Habitat/Land Management 7; Economics 6; Hybrids 3; Other Wildlife 2; WMAs 0; Private Property 0 (NOTE: this will not sum to 368 because Questions could sort out on more than one key word if the comment raised more than one issue).