July 15, 2004
The following stories were written in regards to a wolf summit held April 16, 2004, in Denver. Due to space limitations we are unable to provide in-depth coverage. However, we have addressed many key issues raised by summit speakers and attendees. We hope you find this coverage informative and interesting.
We encourage you to contact the following wolf summit participants for more information and to find out how you can be of assistance:
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Sheep Industry Association
Colorado Cattlemen's Association
Colorado Division of Wildlife
Colorado Farm Bureau Federation
Colorado Wool Growers Association
Hale-Hackstaff-Friesen LLP, Attorneys at Law
Idaho Cattlemen's Association
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
Idaho Office of Species Conservation
Idaho State Senate
Idaho Wool Growers Association
Montana Farm Bureau Federation
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Montana State University
Montana Stockgrowers Association
Montana Wildlife Services
Montana WoolGrowers Association
National Cattlemen's Beef Association
National Lamb Feeders Association
Oregon Farm Bureau Federation
Oregon Sheep Growers Association
Public Lands Council
Office of Senator Craig Thomas (Wyoming)
Office of Senator Conrad Burns (Montana)
Office of Senator Michael B. Enzi (Wyoming)
Wyoming State Legislature
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Utah Farm Bureau Federation
Utah Wool Growers Association
Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation
Wyoming Stockgrowers Association
Wyoming Game & Fish
Wyoming State Legislature
Wyoming Wool Growers Association
(Co-sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry Association and the Public Lands Council.
Stances on Wolves
Many Americans are heralding the wolf's comeback. But what some regard as a success story is prompting others to take legal action on an issue that is as complex as it is exasperating.
By Laura Gerhard
American Sheep Industry Association
July 15, 2004 -- Say the word 'wolf' and chances are you will get a swift and adamant response. Proponents regard its return as retribution for a majestic animal that once roamed across most of North America -- and should again. But opponents are demanding that state and federal agencies rethink their approach on the prolific predator that has overly benefited from an Endangered Species status surpassed long ago.
"There is absolutely no doubt that the wolf is biologically recovered in both the eastern and western United States," says Tom McDonnell, director of resource management for the American Sheep Industry Association. "What we need to do (now) is ensure that those wolves depredating livestock are removed as quickly as possible to reduce financial losses to producers."
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), charged with the wolf's reintroduction and management, agrees.
USFWS Region Six Director Ralph Morgenweck told attendees at a recent wolf summit in Denver that the wolf is indeed biologically recovered, meaning that the intended population numbers established prior to its reintroduction have been reached. That milestone means the process for delisting the wolf, or removing its Endangered Species status, legally, is possible. And once delisted, depredating wolves can be more readily dealt with.
That is encouraging news for livestock producers, outfitters and others who have suffered financial losses due to depredating wolves. But the process of delisting is tedious and time consuming, as those currently enmeshed in the process can attest. The USFWS is countering that a careful and well thought-out approach to delisting is needed if the agency is to successfully balance the interests of both wolf and man.
Both the agency and delisting proponents are hoping that two tools, distinct population segments (DPS) and the 10(j) rule, will help those negatively impacted by wolves while at the same time maintaining legally mandated wolf populations.
The DPS is basically a means by which the USFWS can acknowledge that the wolf is recovered in geographically distinct regions of the United States. It also allows for the wolf's delisting and for its management, within applicable regions, to be turned over to states.
The 10(j) is a provision of the Endangered Species Act that allows for management of wolves introduced as "experimental, non-essential populations." It applies to some areas of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in the western DPS.
However, greater flexibility in wolf management is needed.
"The USFWS currently is taking comments on proposed amendments that could result in a different 10(j) rule, which in turn could provide states with approved wolf-management plans greater flexibility for dealing with problem wolves," says McDonnell. "The livestock industry has asked the USFWS to apply the proposed rule throughout the western wolf region. However, it must be noted that the 10(j) rule will be of no help to individuals in states without approved wolf-management plans."
It is an unwanted reality with which delisting proponents in Wyoming are dealing. However, it is not for lack of trying.
After the Wyoming Game & Fish Department drafted a wolf-management plan with no citizen input, a group of forward-thinking individuals including sportsmen, agriculturists and others drafted their own. Upon completion, a panel of biologists assembled by the USFWS deemed the plan acceptable and it was soon adopted by the Wyoming Legislature. Then, in an unexpected about-face, the agency rejected the plan, saying it "would not withstand legal challenge."
More specifically, the USFWS disliked the fact the plan called for giving Wyoming wolves dual status as both 'predator' and 'trophy' species, the former of which is regarded as politically incorrect in Washington, D.C.
But Wyoming delisting proponents had their reasons for asking for the dual status.
"In Wyoming, differing well-established statutory principles apply to 'predators' and 'trophy game' animals," explains Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Marvin Applequist. "Predators carry a statutory focus on prevention or mitigation of damage to wildlife and private property. Statutes directing the management of trophy game animals are focused on providing hunting opportunities under rules of the Wyoming Game and Fish."
The parameters for predator management can only be changed by the legislature, says Applequist, while the criteria for harvest of trophy game animals are subject to change with the policies of successive Wyoming Game and Fish Commissions.
Another point of contention is that the state of Wyoming, through its plan, committed to the management of seven packs of wolves rather than the 15 packs the USFWS wanted. However, the total of packs statewide actually is 15 as eight packs reside within Yellowstone National Park. Those packs were not included in the plan as they are under the management of the National Park Service and outside the legal jurisdiction of the state of Wyoming.
More surprises of a disappointing nature for Wyoming wolf delisting proponents were to come.
At a later date the USFWS changed its reasoning for discarding the plan, this time citing inconsistencies between the plan and state statute. That particularly angered the plan's proponents since the Wyoming Game & Fish Department had softened the statute within the plan against the wishes of the Wyoming Farm Bureau, Wyoming Stockgrowers and Wyoming Wool Growers Association. In other words, the amended version of the plan, say its proponents, was certain to fail the USFWS-approval process.
The matter is now litigious in nature.
"Basing their rejection on legal risk analysis rather than on the biology of the plan is both arbitrary and capricious," says Wyoming lawyer, livestock producer and Wyoming Stockgrowers President Jim Magagna, who spoke at the wolf summit. "The rejection of the Wyoming wolf-management plan is headed to federal court."
The state of Idaho has faired better with its wolf-management plan, which was finalized in 2002 by the Wolf Oversight Committee and approved by the USFWS earlier this year. The plan went through 17 drafts and was peer-reviewed by leading wolf experts and the USFWS. The end result was a plan that allows increased flexibility for controlling wolves if there are more than 15 packs; increased monitoring and more stringent control measures if pack numbers fall below 15; and use of non-lethal control measures only if pack numbers fall below 10.
More importantly, the Idaho Wolf Oversight Committee succeeded in achieving its No. 1 goal: beginning the process for delisting the wolf.
"Idaho's wolf-management plan is a post-delisting document with management responsibility for the wolf resting with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game," explains David Hensley, legal counsel to the Governor's Office of Species Conservation (OSC) and wolf summit speaker.
The state of Idaho also is negotiating with the Nez Perce Indian tribe to monitor wolves in two regions of the state.
"The Fish and Game and OSC will work closely with state, federal and tribal entities to ensure a smooth transition from federal to state management under the state wolf-management plan," says Hensley.
Idaho also will benefit from the 10(j) amendment, proposed by the USFWS on March 9, 2004, and slated for finalization this summer. The goal of the amendment, says Hensley, is to increase the state's management role for wolves and to increase flexibility for private land owners and permittees to defend their livestock, guarding animals and pets from problem wolves.
Progress has also been made on delisting the wolf in Montana. In 2001, a 12-person citizen council was appointed for the purpose of developing a wolf-management plan. They successfully did just that based on four guiding principles: (1) that the plan allow the people of Montana to eventually make wolf-management decisions; (2) that it allow for delisting as soon as possible; (3) that it be written in such a manner that the majority of people could live with it; and (4) that it require 100-percent consensus by all 12 council members on each provision.
Today, Montana's give-and-take wolf-management plan is fostering a spirit of cooperation by all involved.
"The plan utilizes adaptive management whereby more liberal control measures can be utilized as the wolf population increases," explains Dr. Nelson Wert, Montana wolf-management committee member and wolf summit speaker.
It calls for a minimum of 10 breeding pairs, but does not contain a cap. Control methods are limited when pack numbers drop below 15, but all control methods are allowed when pack numbers exceed 15. And to ensure flexibility, the plan will be reviewed every five years, at which time the wolf's status, and therefore the plan, may change.
"The wolf would be treated the same as the black bear and mountain lion, and landowners would be allowed to take wolves by special permit or under the provision of Montana's Defense of Life and Property Law," adds Wert. "This law allows any Montana citizen to take a wolf that is attacking or threatening to attack livestock or people."
However, those who drafted the plan are not without their concerns.
"The backlash from the refusal of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to approve one of the three state management plans and to file for delisting of the wolf has been much greater than expected," says Wert, referring to the litigious Wyoming plan. "Montanans are frustrated that the delisting is not proceeding despite the wolf's being recovered and Montana having developed approved wolf-management plans.
"This frustration," adds Wert, "could likely lead to pressure on Montana's legislature to develop a new management plan on their own ? and that process could complicate the whole issue."
In an update since the wolf summit, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has signed new agreements with USFWS for joint participation in wolf-management in Montana.
"This was done as an interim step to allow Montana to gradually assume greater control in wolf management until final delisting occurs," says Wert.
But management of depredating wolves is not the only issue. Those who have literally paid the price for wolves are demanding that related costs be paid by the public, which demanded their reintroduction.
"Wolves come with a price tag, not for the general public, which purported their return, but for those citizens unlucky enough to be in a line of business that can be negatively impacted," says ASI's McDonnell. "Numerous ranchers and outfitters will tell you they have literally paid the price for an animal that legally belongs to the public."
That stance is echoed by the Idaho Farm Bureau.
"If the public insists on having wolves in the state of Idaho then the public, through federal government, should pay the costs of managing the wolves," says wolf summit speaker Judy Bartlett, director of public affairs, Idaho Farm Bureau.
Bartlett is not just talking about obvious costs, i.e. compensation payments for livestock kills. She is referring to less obvious costs, such as wolf-induced animal stress, which typically results in weight loss or a slower rate of gain, thus affecting prices producers receive for a product based somewhat on weight.
But receiving financial compensation for an animal that has not reached its full potential due to wolf-induced distress currently is not an option. In fact, paying for basic wolf-management costs is difficult enough, as those states with wolves already have learned.
And the purse strings are only getting tighter.
For Fiscal Year 2004, $1.8 million in the form of state grants for wolf management was available; the FY 2005 budget allows for only $300,000.
Montana projects it will need about $1 million a year for effective wolf-management. Costs include overhead, administrative and salaries of 12 desperately needed wolf specialists at $43,819 each per year. Also factored in is reimbursement for individuals who have lost animals to wolves, and who are paid the animal's worth -- not its market value.
"This allows individuals with high-valued registered herds an opportunity to recover their losses," says Wert. "For example, some individual animals have sold for more than $75,000 in the past several years. State officials said to me, 'We can't afford to pay $75,000 to a producer for the loss of a cow.' I said, 'If the federal and state government can't afford it, how do you expect a rancher (to afford it)?'"
Idaho estimates it will need $1.8 million a year for wolf-management costs, and it has asked for that amount in federal funding.
"Federal funding paid for wolf reintroduction and recovery in Idaho," says Idaho's Hensley. "Since the species and its reintroduction have national significance, it only seems fair that federal funding continue when management of the wolf transitions from the federal government to the states."
Nevertheless, adds Hensley, "Idaho will still deal with problem wolves if federal funding is reduced or unavailable in the future." However, emphasis will be placed on funding wolf-control actions and depredation prevention rather than on a combination of the aforementioned and educational/outreach activities such as presentations to the public about wolf/livestock and wolf/human interactions.
Wyoming estimates it will require $1 million in FY 2005 federal funding, and it will need all it can get: The Wyoming Game and Fish has denied wolf-related funding until the wolves' management is turned over to the state.
If, and when that happens, funding may become an even bigger issue than it is today.
"The estimate by the Wyoming Game and Fish for management after the turnover is less than half a million dollars," says Applequist. "But that appears to be flawed when recognizing that wolf management by the state would probably be greater than the current costs of $1.4 million annually for managing the grizzly bear."
With current Congressional focus on budget issues, such as defense, education and prescription drugs, obtaining federal funding for wolf management undoubtedly will be more difficult. But states in need of such funding should unwaveringly pursue the issue.
"We need to have a letter from each state outlining its funding needs for wolf management," says wolf summit speaker Ric Molen, legislative director, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) office. "Every state should go to its delegation with its funding needs.
"This budget battle is going to be a fight . . . allocations will be less than in past years and discretionary funds will be reduced in light of these cuts," adds Molen, "but you have a friend in Congress with Senator Burns."
Molen also encourages those in need of funding to do some creative thinking, as did Montana's 12-person, wolf citizen council. Their potentially profitable idea? A $5 surcharge on all vehicles entering national parks for the establishment of a $35 million to $50 million wolf-management trust fund.
Fast Delisting Facts
- Anyone can petition the Secretary of Interior to delist a species.
- In practice, petitions to delist must meet a higher standard than do petitions to list.
- The process to delist a species is the same as the
one to list a species under the Endangered Species Act. Five criteria must be
- The present or threatened destruction or modification of habitat;
- Over-utilization for commercial and other uses;
- Disease and predation;
- Adequacy of regulatory mechanisms; and
- Other natural or manmade factors affecting its
- A petition must start with why delisting of is interest to you. The five aforementioned factors must then be individually addressed.
- The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has 90 days to decide whether the petition presents sufficient information. If it does, the USFWS begins a status review, which it must complete within one year. A determination is then made whether the petition is 'warranted,' 'unwarranted' or 'warranted but precluded due to higher priorities.'
- If a decision to delist is made, states in which the
species are present must develop an approved conservation strategy and monitor
the species for five years.
(Source: Arney Dood, Montana Fish, Game and Parks)
Wolves in the Western Wolf Distinct Population Segment as of 2003:
(Source: Jim Knight, Wildlife Extension Specialist, Montana State University)
Waiting ... Watching ... and Wondering
Wolf-related challenges are not limited to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
Ranchers, farmers, outfitters and others in Utah, Colorado and Oregon are preparing for the inevitable: The migration of wolves into those states.
Speakers from all three states shared with wolf summit attendees their plans for the wolves' impending arrival.
Despite meeting eight times since their committee's establishment in 2003, the 13 members of the Utah wolf-management committee have not reached consensus on "where to go with the plan," says Utah sheep producer and committee member Clark Willis, who also serves as Utah Wool Growers' executive secretary. There is, however, keen interest in the issue: A series of public hearings have regularly drawn 100 to 300 people each. Also evident are feelings toward the idea of wolves in Utah. "Seventy percent of participants at these meetings say 'no' to wolves," reports Willis. The state is now searching for good cost data and will soon draft a plan, not so much for a means of managing wolves, but more for protecting agriculture and wildlife within the state.
With wolves to the north in Wyoming and to the south in New Mexico, Colorado is proactively preparing for their arrival. A wolf working group, consisting of 14 people - four agricultural representatives, four environmental representatives, two sportsmen and four people from other fields - is currently being seated. The three immediate concerns are that (1) Interstate 70, which bisects Colorado, is the boundary line between distinct populations of gray wolves in Wyoming and Mexican wolves in New Mexico; (2) the wolf is listed as a state endangered species; and (3) the issue of 'monitoring.' "To be pre-emptive, we need to know where the wolf is located," says Colorado Wool Growers Association Executive Director Bonnie Kline. The Division of Wildlife anticipates the Colorado wolf-management group will have a draft plan by this fall, which it will then make available for public comment.
Despite being 10 months into the wolf-planning process, a 14-member wolf committee, selected by the governor, has not made much progress. The problem? Money -- or more specifically lack thereof. "The committee was told it had to find its own funding for drafting the plan and for travel," says Clint Krebs, Oregon sheep grower and wolf-planning committee member. They did just that by obtaining a grant. The group is now drafting a plan similar to those of Montana and Idaho, with special attention to the fact that the wolf is listed as a state endangered species in Oregon ? "with more restrictive guidelines than are required under federal statute," says Krebs. Also complicating the process is the fact that the group is using a consensus process, and has failed to agree on even one issue. However, a pre-wolf depredation assessment is underway so wolf impacts can later be assessed. A final plan is expected by August 2004.
Wolves: When is Enough, Enough?
The reintroduction of wolves into Idaho, Montana and Wyoming should have been a success story for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). The wolves have thriven better than the agency, or probably anyone else for that matter, anticipated. But despite ever-increasing wolf populations, the agency now finds itself at the center of a lawsuit filed by several plaintiffs, whose listing reads like a "Who's Who" of environmental groups.
The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity and RESTORE, consisting of The North Woods, SINAPU and the Wildlands Project, are among 18 plaintiffs legally challenging two moves made by the USFWS in 2003: The downlisting of the wolf from an 'endangered' to a 'threatened' status and the placement of wolves into distinct population segments (DPS).
The downlisting was done since intended wolf population numbers have been reached and the species, by legal definition, is no longer endangered.
The placement of wolves into DPS was done to allow for the transition of wolf management from the USFWS to those states with agency-approved, wolf-management plans. It is an eagerly anticipated move that will allow for better management of problematic wolves that are destroying private property and depredating on livestock, pets and wildlife.
"The plaintiffs are saying 'no' to both the downlisting and distinct population segments because they want wolves recovered to their historical levels," says Richard Krause, regulatory counsel, American Farm Bureau Federation. "If they win this case, it will push delisting of the wolf back years, as the species will once again be fully protected under the Endangered Species Act in certain portions of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho."
Krause told attendees at the recent wolf summit in Denver that a win by the plaintiffs also would demand the development by the USFWS of wolf-management plans for all states. In addition, all states with wolves would be forced to manage wolf populations under the current recovery plan.
The American Farm Bureau, Safari Club, Oregon Cattlemen's Association and the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana have intervened in the case.
Unfortunately the issue is not unique to western wolf populations: The National Wildlife Federation has filed a second lawsuit in Vermont, challenging the reclassification of the wolf in the eastern wolf DPS. States included in the eastern DPS are Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.