Wolf management issues will be discussed at a series of community work sessions Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will host in March.
The public sessions will be designed to help FWP “scope,” or identify issues to address as the state continues to prepare for the anticipated recovery and federal delisting of Montana’s gray wolf population, a process that could begin early next year. The sessions will allow participants to offer comments in a variety of ways, including in writing, one-on-one with FWP, and in small group settings where community members can discuss issues as FWP listens to and records each person’s comment.
The sessions will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at each venue. An informational update is slated to begin at 7 p.m. Community work sessions--and additional one-on-one discussions--will follow the update. The sessions are set for:
March 5, Glasgow
March 6, Billings
Billings Hotel & Convention Center
1223 Mullowney Ln.
March 11, Missoula
200 S. Pattee St.
March 18, Bozeman
5 Baxter Ln.
March 19, Dillon
USFS Beaverhead Forest Office
420 Barrett Rd.
March 20, Gardiner
March 21, Great Falls
MSU College of Technology
2100 16th Ave. South
March 26, Kalispell
Flathead Valley Community College
Eagle’s Nest Cafeteria
777 Grandview Dr.
March 28, Ennis
Ennis High School Library
“As we move toward developing a wolf management plan, we want to invite Montanans and others to help us identify the benefits and challenges of managing Montana’s recovered wolf population,” said Carolyn Sime, FWP’s wolf management plan coordinator. Sime said additional sessions are being planned for Butte and Helena.
The effort is part of a year-long process to prepare an environmental impact statement whose proposed action is to develop and adopt a state wolf management plan to use when the wolf is delisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The community work sessions will be designed to allow Montanans to talk to FWP and for FWP to listen to comments and record issues in a comfortable setting. “As you’re thinking about the day when the state of Montana will manage wolves, what should FWP consider as it designs a management plan? We’re asking Montanans to help us answer that question,” Sime said. Comments will also be accepted on-line at FWP’s wolf management link at: www.fwp.state.mt.us. Click on “Montana Wolf Management.”
In anticipation of the wolf’s recovery, two years ago a 12-member Wolf Management Advisory Council--a mix of livestock producers, hunters, educators, environmentalists and other citizens—was charged by former Gov. Marc Racicot to consider a wolf management approach for Montana. The citizen council’s final recommendations are organized in four broad subject areas that address the public interest, public safety, maintaining wildlife populations and protecting the livestock industry.
Sime said the recently released Montana Wolf Conservation and Management Planning Document is based on the council’s recommendations and is the best source of information available on Montana wolf-management issues. The planning document will be presented as a wolf management plan alternative in the draft EIS which is expected to be released for public review in June. Other alternatives could include a wholly new plan, a modified planning document, or no state wolf management plan. Issues raised during the wolf scoping period will help FWP develop other alternatives, officials said.
The Wolf Management Advisory Council’s documents, and additional information about wolves in Montana, are available on FWP’s website: www.fwp.state.mt.us. Click on “Montana Wolf Management.”
The wolf is currently listed as "endangered" in northwestern Montana under the federal Endangered Species Act and Montana’s own Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. Wolves in southwestern Montana are classified as "experimental, nonessential" populations under the federal ESA.
An estimated 570 wolves in 35 or more breeding wolf packs exist in the federal Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Area, which includes Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Eighteen breeding wolf packs, and about 100 wolves, inhabit Montana. Federal wolf managers say a total of 30 breeding pair, equitably distributed in the tri-state recovery area for three years, will trigger the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s official proposal to delist the wolf, a process that could begin in 2003. Once delisted, wolves will come under state management.
Among the federal requirements for wolf delisting, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming must have adequate regulations in place to maintain the recovered wolf population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will use the final state wolf management plan to demonstrate that Montana has established adequate regulations to prevent wolves from becoming threatened or endangered again.
After extensive public review of a Montana wolf management Environmental Impact Statement, which will be developed over the coming spring and summer, a final wolf management plan could be completed by November 2002. Montana’s plan, along with plans from Idaho and Wyoming, will be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Written issue-scoping comments will be accepted through April 30 and can be addressed to: Wolf Issues, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 490 North Meridian; Kalispell, MT 59901. For information, call 406-751-4586.