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GLIN==> New Wolf Plan - MN DNR



Posted on behalf of Billy Stern <billysun@chorus.net>

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January 9, 2000

New DNR wolf plan nearly finished

Bill expected to please agricultural interests

By John Myers

News-Tribune outdoors writer

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has drafted a new wolf 
management plan that's now being reviewed by top agency officials and 
should be on key lawmakers' desks within days.

The new DNR plan has not been made public, but it's expected to 
include some sort of increased wolf harvest beyond the current 
federal wolf control program.

The plan also is expected to include measures similar to those 
drafted in 1978 and 1992 by the federal wolf recovery team. Those 
include wolf zones, including a zone encompassing north-central 
Minnesota in which wolves now are thriving but where they would 
become fair game.

That could be a sticking point considering that increased wolf 
killing was the reason a wolf management plan failed in the 1999 
Legislature. Wolf supporters blocked a plan that allowed public 
hunting and trapping last year, and it's not clear if the new plan 
will fare any better in 2000.

Still, DNR Commissioner Allen Garber told the News-Tribune last week 
that the new DNR bill ``will better address agricultural concerns'' 
in the wolf issue. Northern lawmakers and livestock groups want to 
see limited public hunting and trapping of wolves to cull their 
numbers and range to reduce wolves preying on cows, sheep and turkeys.

And Rep. Mark Holsten, R-Stillwater, chairman of the House 
Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee, said any wolf 
plan must include public hunting and trapping to pass the House. 
Currently, federal trappers kill more than 200 wolves each year in 
northern Minnesota -- animals suspected of killing livestock -- but 
no public trapping is allowed.

``If we are going to manage the wolf, that has to include some 
harvest. The question then becomes, who does the harvest?'' Holsten 
said. ``I am firm in believing it should be hunters and trappers.... 
We aren't going to go out and poison wolves and shoot them from 
airplanes. But there is nothing wrong with limited, controlled 
hunting and trapping.''

The new DNR plan likely will be introduced as legislation when 
lawmakers convene next month.

But many wolf supporters still are backing last year's compromise 
wolf management plan struck by a volunteer ``roundtable'' panel of 
Minnesota citizens in 1998. That compromise allowed continued federal 
government trapping of wolves and allowed farmers and pet owners to 
shoot wolves seen attacking. But it stopped short of allowing general 
public hunting or trapping, and it made no limits on where wolves 
could roam.

That compromise bill was quickly scuttled by northern and farm-region 
lawmakers last year, however, and the battle was fought to a draw 
during the 1999 legislative session with no action taken.

Sen. Gary Laidig, R-Stillwater, chief sponsor of the wolf bill last 
year, said wolf supporters won't back any plan that calls for 
indiscriminate wolf killing in any geographic zone. If the 1992 zone 
lines were used, for example, wolf packs now thriving but generally 
causing few problems in the Camp Ripley and Aggasiz areas would be 
open to unlimited shooting.

``If the new plan simply leans toward agricultural interests, what 
about the other side? There are a lot of people out there who don't 
want to see any wolf killing,'' Laidig said, noting he's scheduled to 
be briefed on the DNR plan Jan. 17.

Laidig also said the final plan must stand up to likely legal 
challenges aimed at preventing the federal government from handing 
off wolf control to the state.

``If the new plan isn't acceptable to wolf supporters, then you have 
litigation and the wolf doesn't get de-listed,'' he said. ``What's 
the point of ramming a bill through, which I don't think they can do, 
that kills more wolves if the whole thing collapses in litigation? 
What we need is a compromise to make sure the wolf is de-listed. And 
the roundtable bill was a true compromise.''

The issue is important because, without a state management plan, the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to drop federal Endangered 
Species Act protections and hand control of the animal back to the 
state.

There are more than enough wolves in Minnesota to meet federal 
standards to delist them. They have increased 
from fewer than 1,000 animals in the far northeastern corner of the 
state 30 years ago to about 2,500 animals now across the northern 
half of the state.

But the federal government wants assurances from Minnesota that the 
state won't manage the animal back onto the endangered species list. 
Federal officials have repeatedly said that wolf control (such as 
hunting and trapping) likely would be acceptable but that a state 
plan that cuts wolf numbers below stable levels would not be.

The federal government is just weeks away from ``downlisting'' the 
wolf from endangered to threatened in Michigan, Wisconsin and other 
areas. But, because no Minnesota plan is in place, Minnesota's wolves 
will not be changed from threatened to no federal protection -- a 
move expected because of the animal's successful recovery. That hand 
off from federal to state control can't happen in Minnesota until at 
least 2002, federal officials said, even if the Legislature passes a 
wolf plan this year that's acceptable to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service.



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