Feds await wolf plan

St. Paul By early next year, the Minnesota DNR hopes to have a
gray wolf state management plan submitted to the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. At that point, the federal agency will decide how
it will proceed regarding removal of the species from federal
protection.

“We’re anxiously awaiting the plan to see what information it
contains,” said Georgia Parham, a USFWS outreach coordinator based
in Bloomington, Ind. At that point, USFWS officials would decide
how to pursue delisting of the wolf.

But first, the Minnesota DNR must revise its wolf management
plan, making it similar to one passed by the state Legislature, and
members of the state Wolf Roundtable will review the new plan,
before the DNR forwards it to the USFWS, according to Ed Boggess,
resource manager for the DNR’s Division of Wildlife.

What could delay the delisting process is another proposal
that’s currently in the works.

Public comment wrapped up about a month ago on a national
proposal to reclassify the species from “endangered” to
“threatened,” a move that would allow lethal control of problem
wolves. This proposal, however, doesn’t affect Minnesota, since the
wolf already is on the federally threatened list. It does affect
other states in the Western Great Lakes Distinct Populations
Segment of wolves Wisconsin, Michigan and the Dakotas. In those
states, gray wolves are endangered.

“We’re in the content analysis stage and then we’ll make a
decision on how to formulate the final rule,” Parham said.

About 20,000 comments were received from people across the
nation and testimony was received at a series of public hearings
held by the USFWS.

“We’re going to try to meet the one-year deadline,” Parham said
regarding the proposal’s timeline. The proposal was listed in the
Federal Register midsummer of 2000.

Public meetings were held in three Minnesota locations, and a
public hearing was held in Duluth in October. Following the
mid-November deadline for comments, the USFWS expected analysis of
the public input to take about eight months.

“It may be a daunting task,” Parham said.

Comments will be reviewed and sorted by a federal analysis team
before USFWS officials review them. Parham said a summary of the
comments should be available online (www.fws.gov/) sometime in
January.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota DNR expects its management plan to be
presented to the USFWS early next year.

Since the Minnesota Legislature failed to pass a consensus plan
from the state’s Wolf Roundtable group, the DNR must revise its
plan, Boggess said.

“There were substantial differences, especially in the ag zone,”
he said. “We’re redrafting it to be consistent with the
Legislature.”

When that’s done, the revamped plan will be circulated to
roundtable members for their review and comment. The most
noticeable revision, Boggess said, concerns wolves in the
transition/ag zone of the state.

The legislative bill allows people to “preventatively” kill a
wolf where there hasn’t already been a confirmed kill of
livestock.

“It gives livestock owners a little more discretion,” Boggess
said.

Previous language stated there must be a prior confirmed killing
of livestock by a wolf and that the wolf must be in the process of
harming livestock.

Whether the USFWS would begin the delisting process before the
current proposal has run its course is unknown.

“We’re hoping to have something prepared for reclassification
this summer,” Parham said. “So summer could be the earliest we
could start the delisting process.”

But, pending USFWS approval of Minnesota’s state management
plan, it’s known the Midwest states meet the criteria for
delisting.

Population estimates are 250 and 216 wolves in Wisconsin and
Michigan (excluding Isle Royale), respectively. The 1992 Recovery
Plan specifies the need for at least 80 wolves for three years in
order to reclassify (the current proposal) and for at least 100
wolves for five consecutive years to delist.

The recovery plan also says the Minnesota population now
estimated at about 2,450 animals must surpass the recovery level of
1,251 to 1,400 animals.

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