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State scrambling to revive wolf hunt

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State officials are pursuing multiple ways to reinstate gray wolf hunting in Montana as a management tool, including asking Congress to affirm that wolves can be considered endangered in one state but not in another.

One of the hunting requests involves asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services for an “enhancement of survival permit application” to be processed and issued by Nov. 30, which would allow wolves to be hunted this year. Under that request, the state is saying that a conservation hunting season for wolves would enhance the survival of the species, according to Dave Risley, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks fish and wildlife division administrator.

“The 10(a)(1)(A) permit is a mechanism under the Endangered Species Act that allows for the lawful taking of a listed species,” Risley said. “It would allow us to salvage some type of hunting season.”

FWP also is making a simultaneous request that the federal agency downlist wolves in the northern half of the state from endangered to threatened, which could allow a statewide conservation hunt in 2011. They’re listed as an experimental population in the southern tier of Montana.

“We view the use of public hunting as the optimum population management tool,” FWP Director Joe Maurier wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Rowan Gould, the USFWS acting director.

He added that while Montana wants to work with the USFWS in a “collaborative, proactive manner,” that “time is of the essence” and asked for a written response to the requests by Sept. 10.

On a separate track, FWP has drafted legislative language asking Congress to reaffirm its original intent in enacting the Endangered Species Act and its subsequent amendments. In particular, the state wants Congress to say that species can have different classifications in different significant portions of the species’ range. That legislation would have to be carried by Montana’s congressional delegation.

That action is being sought based on a recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy, who ruled that based on his interpretation of the intent of Congress, multiple listing classifications of a species wasn’t allowed. In light of that interpretation, Molloy decided that wolves in Idaho and Montana couldn’t be taken off the list of threatened or endangered species while those in Wyoming remained listed, and he put all of the Northern Rockies gray wolves back under the protections of the Endangered Species Act in early August. They were most recently delisted in 2009.

The FWP Commission also passed a resolution saying they believe the Endangered Species Act needs to be reformed, and will send that statement, along with a cover letter, to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“We’re using a shotgun approach, rather than a BB gun,” noted Bob Ream, commission chairman.

“Which is an affective method for wolves,” added Commissioner Shane Colton.

Montana, Wyoming and Idaho are home to an estimated 1,700 wolves, which is more than five times the previously set federal benchmark of 300 wolves for them to be considered a recovered species and removed from the protections of the Endangered Species Act.

Both Montana and Idaho manage wolves under an agreement with the USFWS, and last year, both states held wolf hunts as part of the effort to keep the populations at current levels. Hunts also were scheduled for this year, with Montana poised to authorize permits for 180 wolves, but that’s been indefinitely postponed due to Molloy’s ruling.

Risley said that in discussions with Wyoming officials, their Legislature has tied the hands of wildlife managers, so there’s little hope that gray wolves will be considered anything other than predators that can be shot on sight in most of that state. That makes it imperative, he said, that the other states find a way that allows hunting wolves as a management tool without involving Wyoming.

The commission agreed, noting that one of the best ways to do that is look for changes at the national level.

“Changing the Endangered Species Act sounds like a tough, uphill job, but it’s important when you look at other species like grizzlies and sage grouse,” said Commissioner Dan Vermillion. “Montana has done a good job managing wildlife and we need to make sure we are not penalized (because of other states’ actions).”

Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or


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