Saturday, January 12, 2013

Debate over wolves heats up in Helena

Posted: Jan 11, 2013 by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - The Montana Legislature is already in heated discussion over wolves.

The House Fish, Wildlife & Parks Committee heard two bills relating the state's management of wolves Thursday afternoon.

The intention of both bills are to allow Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) to more aggressively manage the species.

The first bill, brought by Representative Ted Washburn (R - Bozeman), allows for a general hunting season, and sets an objective of 250 wolves in Montana.

FWP Wildlife Division Administrator Ken MacDonald says FWP opposes the bill because it ties the hands of the FWP Commission.

"It puts several variables in statute. That reduces or has a potential to reduce our ability to manage wolves," MacDonald says. "Some of those include the season dates, season structure, one example of that is the inability to establish management units, and how many licenses a hunter can buy."
MacDonald says Washburn's bill could lead to the relisting of wolves on the endangered species list and even possible litigation.

However, FWP is signing onto a different bill carried by Representative Kelly Flynn (R - Townsend).
Flynn's bill provides for a general hunting season, allows electronic calling, increases the bag limit, and lowers the price of a wolf tag.

It also gives the FWP Commission the ability to set quotas annually and not have specific numbers set in statute.

The committee has yet to take action on either bill.