A working group of Montana citizens and agencies agreed this week on a general framework that seeks to help livestock operators avoid problems caused by wolves and to reimburse them when damages occur.
The 30-member group, which met in Helena four times this spring, agreed to create a Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Program aimed at decreasing wolf-damage risks through prevention, active management of the state's wolf population, and through a program to reimburse livestock operators for losses caused by wolves.
The agreement in part fulfills a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks commitment under Montana's wolf conservation and management plan to help create a workable compensation program.
"The framework for the program is still a work in progress," said Carolyn Sime, FWP's wolf program coordinator. "A smaller subcommittee will continue developing additional details, including a long-term source of funding."
Compensation for wolf-caused livestock damages and losses is currently offered to Montana livestock owners by the Defenders of Wildlife, a private, nonprofit group that seeks to protect wild animals and their habitats. Based in part on the Montana working group's discussions, Sime said Defenders of Wildlife has been and will continue to explore ways to meet Montana's needs during this interim period.
Here are the highlights of the group's framework:
* Create an independent board to oversee a reimbursement program for livestock producers who experience economic losses and related costs caused by wolves.
* Fund the reimbursement program through federal and private sources; do not use FWP funds for reimbursements.
* FWP will carry out Montana's approved wolf management plan and will work with agencies, livestock producers and others to reduce wolf-related risks and help prevent losses.
* Fund prevention programs through federal, private and state sources.FWP recently assumed management responsibilities from federal authorities for the state's recovered, but still federally protected wolf population. With the help of federal funding, FWP is carrying out much of Montana's approved wolf conservation and management plan while continuing to work toward the rapid delisting of the gray wolf in Montana.