Montana is angry over the federal court ruling that returned wolves to protected under the Endangered Species Act. Now, like Idaho before them, Montana's Governor Brian Schweitzer has issued a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar declaring a war on wolves.
Gov. Schweitzer has ordered Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to no longer investigate wolves killed by people. He argues that ranchers need to defend their livestock from wolves and is giving the green light to kill any and all wolves deemed a threat. FWP has been instructed to take out entire packs that may have preyed on livestock. No proof needed.
Additionally, to protect elk for hunters, all wolves in the Bitterroot Valley are to be eliminated. This despite the increase in elk harvested by human hunters this winter. Wolves are being blamed for low elk numbers but there are obviously enough elk for humans and wolves.
The purpose of the letter is to object to federal management of wolves. However, this act will have the consequence of increasing federal presence in the state.
Gov. Schweitzer needs to hear that his plan is ill conceived and reckless. In order to obtain his goal of state management of wolves, all states with the Northern Rockies population of wolves need a sustainable wolf plan. Montana and Idaho have cooperated. Wyoming is holding out. Pressure needs to be placed on Wyoming, not the feds. In the meantime, Gov. Schweitzer needs to retract his declaration of war on wolves.
Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the wolf population in the Northern Rockies region was sufficiently recovered to warrant delisting from the Endangered Species Act. Montana’s wolf management plan was deemed sustainable, along with Idaho’s plan. The conflict arose due to Wyoming’s insistence of shooting all wolves outside the protection of Yellowstone National Park.
Instead of pushing Wyoming to adopt a reasonable wolf management plan, the blame has been misdirected toward the federal government.
Killing wolves known to prey on livestock is one thing. Targeting entire wolf packs for suspicion of livestock depredation is overkill and will not solve the problem. Along with livestock husbandry practices that include predator diversionary techniques, ranchers should be able to protect their livestock from harm. However, there need to be checks and balances to insure that problem wolves are targeted.
Additionally, eliminating all wolves from the Bitterroot Valley is not justified. Elk hunting in the area has been more successful this winter than last year, a sign that there is an adequate number of elk to share between wolves and hunters.
I urge you to withdraw your threats to Secretary Salazar. They do more damage than good by giving the perception that Montana is not capable of state management of wolves. Your energy would better be suited in pressuring Wyoming to get on board with sustainable wolf management so the entire Northern Rockies region can benefit from individual state management of wolves.