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The number of bills in Congress to get wolves delisted continues to grow. Last session, Senate bill S. 3919 and House resolution H.R. 6028 both failed to be read on the floor. This session two new versions of those bills have reappeared - S. 249 and H.R. 509. Both seek the same thing, and that is to have gray wolves removed from the protection of the Endangered Species Act - and from federal protection and management. The wildlife agencies within each state would be rightfully handed the task of managing wolves at levels that best fit the overall wildlife management within each state.
On February 9, 2011, Montana Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus threw legislation of their own into the mix. No number had been assigned as of this writing. In essence, the Tester-Baucus bill seeks the delsiting of wolves in just Montana and Idaho, allowing for much needed hunts to reduce wolf numbers where the predators are literally destroying big game herds, and are now turning heavily to livestock depredation. Likewise, as game numbers have dwindled, wolves have moved closer to cities and towns, and this past year have been signifcantly more aggressive toward people. The accompanying photo at above left shows the remains of a whitetail doe killed and consumed by a pack of 3 or 4 wolves right at the edge of Missoula city limits - not more than 75 yards from the backyards of a residential neighborhood...where children had built a snowman.
Following is the press release that LOBO WATCH received in regards to the Tester-Baucus wolf delsiting bill, followed by a letter the two Senators sent to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
(Washington, D.C.) Montana`s U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester introduced legislation today to delist the Northern Rocky Mountain population of the gray wolves in Montana and Idaho from the endangered species list and return those wolves to state management. The Senators also sent a letter today to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar again urging quick action to approve Montana`s application to hunt wolves in the West Fork of the Bitterroot. This application is in conjunction with the Senators` request to hold a state-wide gray wolf hunt.
"Montanans don`t need D.C. bureaucrats telling us how to manage wolves in our state. This common- sense bill will put Montana back in control and restore our successful management plan that allows wolf hunts that protect ranchers and wolves. The debate has gone on long enough. It`s time to come together to find a solution, and give ranchers and hunters the lasting certainty they deserve once and for all," Baucus said. "In the meantime, it`s absolutely crucial for the Department of Interior to move quickly to approve Montana`s wolf hunt this year."
"We need a solution that delists wolves and gets them back under Montana`s management and we need that solution now," said Tester, Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen`s Caucus. "Montana`s management plan was working just fine, and this legislation will return us to that plan and let Montanans start hunting wolves again."
The Baucus-Tester bill would restore management practices as they were before the 2010 court ruling that resulted in the return of the gray wolf to Federal management under the Endangered Species Act. Before that court decision, a Fish and Wildlife Service Rule had delisted those portions of the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population in Montana and Idaho and put the states in charge of managing wolves. Today`s bill codifies that rule, returning the wolf once again to state management and taking it off the endangered species list. The rule also delists gray wolves in portions of Utah, Washington and Oregon.
Baucus and Tester have been working toward a solution to put Montana back in control of wolves since the 2010 court ruling and first introduced legislation in September 2010. The Senators have since been working with their colleagues in the House and Senate, along with Governors in the affected states and the Department of Interior, to reach a solution for Montana ranchers, farmers and hunters as quickly as possible. Baucus and Tester sent letters urging Secretary Salazar to work with the Governors in December of last year and earlier this month.
While pursuing legislation, Baucus has also pressed Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould to take action to bring wolves in northern Montana under the same management rules as those in the southern half of the state and to allow all Montana landowners to protect their property from wolves. Tester, Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen`s Caucus, wrote the bipartisan Wolf Kill Bill, which provides a compensation fund for Montana ranchers who lose livestock to wolf predation.
Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was one step closer to approving a wolf hunt this year in portions of Idaho and Montana. The FWS issued a draft environmental assessment addressing a potential hunt in Idaho and announced its plans to issue a similar notice within six weeks for Montana. Baucus and Tester`s letter to Salazar urges the Secretary to move quickly to expedite this process for Montana.
Text of Baucus and Tester`s letter follows below...
February 10, 2011
The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
Dear Secretary Salazar:
This fall the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks requested that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant it additional biologist-conducted hunts of gray wolves. Since that request, unacceptable levels of predation continue to escalate as Montana`s professional wildlife managers attempt to wrangle this issue with one hand tied behind their back. In the meantime, ranchers and sportsmen in Montana are suffering. The Endangered Species Act allows wildlife managers the ability to control experimental gray wolf populations. We urge you to expedite the State of Montana`s request to lethally take wolves in the West Fork of the Bitterroot to control unacceptable impacts to wild ungulate populations.
Time is of the essence to assure that the State of Montana has all the necessary tools at their disposal to mitigate impacts on Montana`s prized elk, moose, deer, and livestock population. In the East and West Fork Bitterroot, where the additional measures are requested, Montana biologists have documented a decline in elk from 1,900 in 2005 to fewer than 765 today. Additionally, birthrates dwindled to a current low of 10 calves per 100 cows. Biologists assert that a minimum of 25 calves per 100 must be maintained for a sustainable population. Predation may not be sole cause of the decline, but biologists across the country agree it is compounding factor in this drastic loss and these animals must be managed.
Thank you for considering and swiftly processing Montana`s application to use broader management tools for wolves. We must use all tools available to address this critically important issue.
The Tester-Baucus wolf bill differs from S. 249 and H.R. 509 in several ways, but the most prominent difference is that the bill just introduced by the two Montana Senators only seeks delisting for wolves in Montana and Idaho. The two bills already in Congress seek to have the gray wolf removed from ESA protection and federal management, with management rights and numbers control returned to state wildlife agencies. Many sportsmen and sportsmen groups have criticized the direction that the Tester-Baucus bill has taken. The feeling is that for this bill to be passed by the Senate, it will have to gain the support of many other state senators from other states which are now being plagued by growing wolf numbers - namely Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Utah, and more recently North Dakota, South Dakota and Colorado. (Likewise, wolves have now shown up in Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.) And by excluding delisting in these states, the chances of them supporting delisting in just Montana and Idaho seem extremely slim.
H.R. 509 has been sponsored by Montana Representative Denny Rehberg, who just recently announced his plans to run against Jon Tester for his Senate seat. The bill already has 36 other cosponsors. S. 249 is sponsored by Senator Orin Hatch of Utah.
Critics say the Tester-Baucus approach to wolf management is little more than an expensive bandaid slapped on a major threat to wildlife and ranching. And it leaves the door open to wolves being returned to the ESA list of "endangered species" in five years...giving the environmental groups another shot at cashing in on hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars by scamming the Equal Access to Justic Act.
Robert Fanning, the chairman and founder of Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herds says, "The Tester and Baucus wolf bill is all about throwing their constituents a fish while laying out a feast for out of state lawyers gaming the system for wolf related legal fees."
On the other hand, environmental groups like the Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity will be throwing everything they've got at defeating the two bills which fully remove the wolf from ESA protection - all across the country. The Montana Wildlife Federation is one close-to-home organization that has been extremely critical of Rehberg's H.R. 509. But then, this is a state chapter of the National Wildlife Federation, which has a long track record of keeping wildlife and environmental issues tied up in court. Very recently, perhaps feeling the pressure that real sportsmen are now putting on lawmakers to open doors for more effective wolf control, Montana Wildlife Federation made some very slanderous remarks about sportsmen and sportsmen-based organizations as being too "politically inept" and not knowledgeable enough to weigh in on the wolf delisting issue.
Don Peay, the founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife perhaps puts all of this in the right perspective with the following observations...
Here are the two choices on Wolf Delisting Legislation. Even Senator Boxer of California and Senator Cardin of Maryland admitted - Wolves need to be managed, and Congress must change the ESA after they berated Senator Hatch and fellow Democrat Congressman Jim Matheson.
One interesting question is, why are Senators from the Coasts telling us what to do in the West and Midwest ?? Wade Boggs says it best on our www.biggameforever.org website. The Hall of Famer said, the people of the west don`t tell people in New York and Boston how to manage their cities, the city folks on the coast shouldn`t tell those who live out west how to manage our lands and wildlife.
Here is what the BIPARTISAN HOUSE Bill Hr. 509, and so far Senator Hatch, Lee, Crapo, Risch, Enzie, Barrasso, McCain and Kyle Bill S. 249 does...
1. Gives all 50 states and state game and fish agencies and state game and fish commissions the right to manage all wildlife, wolves included.
2. Prevents endless litigation huge waste of money and time.
3. Allows Governors in each state to help manage state and local issues related to all wildlife management.
4. Allows for management of wolves and restoration of big game herds.
5. Allows for protection of livestock producers and private property rights.
6. Protects jobs in the rural hunting economies, tourism.
7. Protects wolves hunters and Ranchers have a LONG, 100 year track record of going above and beyond to live with management plans and protect species.
8. Allows for sportsmen to pay for wolf management and conservation, not force taxpayers to pay the bill.
9. Allows other states to manage wolves, but not let them over populate and destroy game herds as has been done in places in ID, WY, MT, MI, WI, and MN.
10. Allows state game agencies, sportsmen and ranchers to place limited resources on habitat protection.
11. Allows the US Fish and Wildlife Service to focus on species, TRULY ENDANGERED from leaving planet earth.
12. It is one sentence, easy to understand by all. (That sentence reads..."Exemption of Gray Wolves - This Act shall not apply to the gray wolf (canis lupus)."
Here is what the proposed Tester-Baucus Bill does...
1. Borrows $25 Million from our children and grandchildren to be repaid with interest, for federal observation no action of wolf population increase, and game herd decrease.
2. Automatically puts wolves back on the Endangered Species List in 5 year, so we can waste millions fighting delisting once again.
3. Raises the minimum wolf populations in ID and MT from what EVERYONE agreed to when wolves were returned.
4. Only delists wolves in ID and MT.
5. Is several pages of legal innuendo, subject to interpretation.
6. Leaves all other states with wolves Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Utah, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan OUT.
When the United States Congress EXEMPTED hunting license allocations from the INTERSTATE COMMERCE CLAUSE ACT a sacred document never to be modified using the ESA argument, here is what Senator Reid, who worked with Senator Hatch, McCain, Ben Nelson of Nebraska etc, in a bipartisan fashion said in summary...
1. Wildlife and Hunting are BEST managed by each state, as has been done for a hundred years.
2. Wildlife and hunting are important to the economy.
3. Hunters have invested incredible amounts of extra money names RMEF and Nevada Desert Bighorn Association by name to protect wildlife herds.
4. Time is of the essence.
Therefore, the United States Congress, in a strong bipartisan fashion, Exempted EVERY STATE, not just Nevada and Arizona, not just states within the ninth Circuit court of appeals district, EVERY STATE EXEMPTED HUNTING LICENSE ALLOCATION FROM THE INTERSTATE COMMERCE CLAUSE ACT. No litigation, no need for judges. Congress spoke, decision solved.
One piece of legislation trusts local people, protects all wildlife, saves lots of taxpayer money, protects all states, protects all species.
One piece of legislation is a partial solution, that keeps power in the hands of courts, judges, and the Federal Government, at a high cost to taxpayers, money we as a country simply do not have.
One piece of legislation trust Governors and local people and state fish and game agencies. One piece of legislation trusts the courts and the federal government.
The Utah Wildlife Federation no longer exists. They died because sportsmen in Utah realized they were a handful of people, out of touch with Utah, funded by a national group, with an anti-hunting agenda.
I suspect the same thing will happen in many other states.
At one point in history, state wildlife federations played a role in conservation. They are kind of like the typewriter. SFW, RMEF, MDF, and other groups are kind of like the Apple I pad, or Microsoft driven Dell computer.
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