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E-M:/ Wolf Comeback Good, but the Recovery NOT COMPLETE

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org


The DNR Newswire note forwarded to the Enviro-Mich list provides encouraging
news about the recovery of the gray wolf in Michigan, but all is not yet rosy
for these living, howling symbols of the Northwoods.  

Most folks familiar with wolves in the upper Great Lakes region know that
Minnesota is the center of wolf survival and recovery in this region.  Wolves
survived in Minnesota's wild Boundary Waters and far north when they had been
extirpated in every other part of the lower 48 states. Wolf recovery in
Michigan has been largely dependent on the successful recovery of the wolf
population in Minnesota, though some have also come across the St. Mary's
River from Ontario, and the continued success of our wolf packs will depend
for a good long time on the success of the wolves in Minnesota.

Minnesota was supposed to adopt a management plan for wolves during this
legislative session, just finished, but failed to do so in a very dramatic
way.  Last year, disparate interests across Minnesota were brought together to
draft a management plan, and succeeded after much debate and dissension in
drafting a consensus plan that gained support of farmers, hunters,
environmentalists and many others.  This plan was taken to the MN Legislature
this winter for their consideration and to seek approval.  Instead of agreeing
to the well balanced plan crafted carefully by knowledgable people, the
Legislature fell into major debates over critical elements of the plan.  Among
other things, some legislators wanted to place a limit on the MAXIMUM number
of wolves that would be allowed to exist in Minnesota, and a great deal of
debate occurred about opening up a hunting season on the wolf. 

In the end the Minnesota Legislature FAILED to pass a wolf management plan.
This SHOULD BE of great concern for Michigan.  While it is believed that at
some point in the future the Upper Peninsula wolf population could be a viable
independent population, we are far from that point now, so are dependent on
Minnesota to assure that the population is capable of surviving here.
However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is reportedly considering proposing
to move ahead with downlisting the wolf in Michigan and Wisconsin
(from endangered to threatened) despite the fact that Minnesota does NOT have
a management plan in place, and based on the current politics there might just
as well adopt a plan that is not adequate to assure that a source population
would be maintained at a high enough level to assure that Michigan's packs
remain healthy.  

The discussions on potential downlisting cite the fact that
the recovery plans for Wisconsin and Michigan call for having at least 100
wolves in the two states for 5 consecutive winters before proceeding with
downlisting (to federal threatened status) and that those numbers have been
reached.  HOWEVER, and more importantly, the Michigan plan also points out
that WITHOUT guarantees that healthy wolf populations are present in
Minnesota, Michigan's pack must be at a level of more than 200 wolves
sustained over 5 years prior to downlisting proceeding.  There should be no
doubt that without a sound Minnesota plan in place that no steps toward
downlisting should occur, yet it appears that we may well see such a proposal
very soon from the USFWS.

If you care about the wolf in Michigan, please make a point of following this
issue.  There is no proposal in hand at this time, and I'll try to make sure
to post any proposal that comes forward.

Anne Woiwode

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