Senators seek continued wolf management in Montana, tri-state talks
Tester, Baucus push Interior Chief to fund Wolf Kill Bill, convene discussions
(BIG SANDY, Mont.) – Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus today requested discussions among Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming to develop a plan for states to effectively manage gray wolves following a judge’s recent decision that returned wolves to the endangered species list.
The Senators also pushed U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to fully fund Montana’s Wolf Kill Bill, formally known as the Wolf Livestock Loss Mitigation Program, after Judge Donald Molloy’s August 5 decision that resulted in relisting the gray wolf as an endangered species.
“In the pursuit of finding a lasting solution, we strongly support state management and believe that it can be used to achieve a healthy population of gray wolves while balancing the needs of the communities in this region,” the Senators wrote to Salazar. “To this end, we ask you to convene discussions between all stakeholders in the tri-state region in Montana this fall. Working through a collaborative process can bring resolution to this problem if all the relevant parties are engaged.”
Tester and Baucus specifically touted the State of Montana’s work in creating a workable management plan for wolves in Montana. The State of Idaho created its own management plan. The State of Wyoming, however, did not.
“No matter the solution, we must all be proactive; and that includes the State of Wyoming,” the Senators added. “Hoping that this issue will resolve itself is unwise for our local ranchers and for the long-term survival of the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf.”
In the coming weeks, Baucus plans to introduce legislation to put wolves under Montana’s management.
The Wolf Kill Bill, written by Tester, provides a compensation fund for Montana ranchers who lose livestock to wolf predation. Baucus and Tester requested that Salazar fully fund the successful program, as well as all wolf management efforts, now and in future Administration budgets.
The full text of the Senators’ letter to Salazar appears below:
August 19, 2010
The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C St NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Salazar:
Over the course of the last two years the Fish Wildlife Service and the states of Montana and Idaho have worked to find an ecological and practical solution to maintaining a viable population of reintroduced gray wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Montana and Idaho were beginning to implement a solution which had support and balance. However, Judge Donald Molloy’s decision on August 5, 2010, to vacate the current distinct population management rule, returns us to the drawing board to find a way to manage this species. We understand that finding a workable solution to managing wolves may not be his purview, but it is the Department of Interior’s.
We can look at this rule as an unfortunate setback, or as a catalyst to engage all the relevant parties in a new, legal and binding solution to protect local economic interests and gray wolves. We know there is a range of options we must consider, including legislative solutions and challenging the ruling. We appreciate Assistant Secretary Strickland’s support of Montana’s and Idaho’s management and good faith efforts to find a sustainable solution to this complex issue. We strongly believe that by empowering states in this process we can find a way to balance the needs of all the stakeholders.
In the pursuit of finding a lasting solution, we strongly support state management and believe that it can be used to achieve a healthy population of gray wolves while balancing the needs of the communities in this region. To this end, we ask you to convene discussions between all stakeholders in the tri-state region in Montana this fall. Working through a collaborative process can bring resolution to this problem if all the relevant parties are engaged.
In the interim, we ask that the Department of Interior, specifically the Fish and Wildlife Service, provide full funding for the management of gray wolves in Montana from the date of the decision. Since reintroduction was done at the request of the Department of Interior, we request that all gray wolf management in Montana is funded with federal dollars. This includes full funding for the Livestock Loss Mitigation Program now and in future Administration budgets. The program should be funded as it was intended—with a specific focus on states with reintroduced wolves.
No matter the solution, we must all be proactive; and that includes the State of Wyoming. Hoping that this issue will resolve itself is unwise for our local ranchers and for the long-term survival of the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf.
We know Judge Molloy’s decision is the beginning of a long stakeholder process, but we encourage you to engage in a legally binding and pragmatic solution. Time is of the essence.
Thank you for your consideration.