USFWS hearing on wolves’ delisting is emotional gathering

(Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

Brainerd, Minn. — Ranchers and animal rights activists dominated the crowd. Interspersed were hunters, tribal members, and elected officials. Wolves – and the federal delisting of the species, proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – were on the minds of all of them during a hearing June 25 at the Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd.

Some 350 people found their way to the hearing; more than 80 chose to make their comments public. Some reached the three-minute threshold allowed for comment. Others offered abbreviated feedback. When the hearing ended, four hours had elapsed.

And although the issue of wolf delisting – which most believe would result in wolf hunting – heightens emotions on both sides of the issue, order was the rule rather than the exception this night.

“We were incredibly impressed with the civility of all the participants,” the USFWS’s Melissa Clark said following the hearing.

The USFWS on March 15 this year proposed removing gray wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act. A 60-day public comment period regarding the proposal eventually was extended to July 15. Currently, wolves are federally classified as threatened in Minnesota. They’re considered endangered in the states of Wisconsin and Michigan – the other two Great Lakes states where breeding gray wolf populations exist.

Gray wolves were delisted just a few years ago, but shortly thereafter, a federal judge restored protections for the animals.

For an in-depth story on the hearing, see the July 5 issue of Minnesota Outdoor News.

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