for consensus on wolves
LIVINGSTON -- Wolves are a
problem in Montana, commissioners from several
Montana counties agreed in a meeting here
Thursday, and the federal government needs to come
up with more money to compensate ranchers and
control wolf numbers.
The goal of the five-hour meeting, organized by
Park County Extension Agent Marty Malone, was to
come up with a joint resolution calling for
tighter management of wolves, a quicker removal
from the federal Endangered Species Act list and
keeping closer tabs on the big carnivores.
Commissioners from Gallatin,
Park, Sweet Grass, Stillwater, Carbon and Madison
counties attended. Beaverhead County commissioners
sent Joe Helle, a prominent sheep rancher, to
Commissioners from all the counties spoke in favor
of the resolution, although Gallatin County
Commissioner Joe Skinner said such a resolution
could be difficult to pass in that county.
The other two Gallatin County commissioners --
Bill Murdock and John Vincent -- don't seem
interested in taking action, Skinner said. Unlike
in other counties around Yellowstone National
Park, Gallatin County ranchers have had few
problems with wolves, Skinner said.
Gallatin County also is the most urbanized of the
seven counties represented here, and is home to a
number of pro-wolf organizations.
Plus, if the resolution is passed
by all the counties, the document is only an
expression of desire and has no force of law.
Sweet Grass County Commissioner Elaine Allestad,
whose family runs a sheep ranch, said joining the
voices of several counties grants all of them more
"I do know a joint resolution has some power," she
A handful of counties around Yellowstone already
have passed resolutions calling for rapid
delisting and more intensive wolf management.
Janelle Holden, of the Predator Conservation
Alliance, cautioned the commissioners that not
everybody in their counties sees wolves as a
Some people see them as "a valued predator that
plays a key ecological role," she said.
Wolves also benefit a number of people through
tourism, she added.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says wolves
have met the biological requirements for
delisting, but refuses to take that step until
Wyoming changes its state wolf management plan.
The existing document would allow wolves to be
shot on sight in much of Wyoming. The federal
government says that is unacceptable and the
wolves will remain on the ESA list until Wyoming
changes its attitude.
Montana has a plan that calls for maintaining
roughly the same number of wolves the state has
now -- 10 to 15 packs. FWS officials have praised
Allestad, who has been involved in wolf issues for
years, said a joint resolution gives members of
Congress "more leverage" by showing them what
local government wants.
She said the resolution would send a message both
to the federal government and to the Montana
Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which this
year took over management of wolves in the state,
with federal oversight.
The resolution declares that wolves are "a
predator species in need of management" and states
€ FWP should radio collar more wolves.
€ FWP should work with the federal government to
better notify county government and citizens when
wolves are in a specific area.
€ Congress and the FWS should "expedite the
process to delist" wolves and give management
authority and full funding to FWP and the Montana
Department of Livestock.
€ The governor of Montana should appoint a board
that will find ways to reduce livestock losses,
implement a restitution program and fund it fully
with federal money.
McMillion is at