WOLVES: As the fall hunting season began to wind down and I examine the many emails received, numerous meetings attended and news articles read, I thought perhaps our members might be lost and in need of an up date. A lot of things have taken place and you may not be understand where we are on certain issues.
First off, the wolf issue continues to be moving in a positive direction. If you have gotten lost, I will try and bring you up to speed. A series of meetings were held this summer where the agreement between Governor Matt Mead and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar was discussed (see the accompanying fact sheet). The majority of people attending the meetings were in agreement that something needed to be done in order to restore state management authority over wolves. A small expansion area will allow for greater movement and biological transfer between wolf populations located in Wyoming & Idaho. This area will allow wolves to be treated as trophy game animals from October 15 through the end of the Following February. The area would revert back to a predator zone from March first through October 14th. Wyoming has agreed to manage for a population of at least 10 breeding pairs and at least 100 wolves outside Yellowstone National Park.
The Wyoming G&F Commission approved the necessary changes to their rules pertaining to Wyoming Wolf Management Plan at the September 14th Commission meeting allowing the process to continue moving towards the objective: Wyoming’s wolf management plan will promote the management of a stable, sustainable population of wolves. The USFWS followed through with their commitment and on October 4, 2011 opened the comment period on Wyoming’s new wolf management plan. The Public Review process will last until January 13, 2012 and a peer review panel is scheduled to conduct an assessment sometime in December of 2011. Once completed, the assessment will be posted online at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/.
On November 8, 2011, the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resource Joint Committee held a public meeting where change to Wyoming’s statues pertaining to wolf management were also addressed. The Joint Committee has drafted language which will be considered during the 2012 legislative session. I attended this hearing and testified in support of the proposed changes; however, I did caution our legislators that should the USFWS fail to restore complete management authority to the state of Wyoming, WY SFW would be asking them to put pressure of Congress to declare this a failed experiment and seek removal of all protection of wolves within our borders. GRIZZLY BEARS: Around the first of the year, I believe it was in February, the State of Wyoming was in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals defending its regulatory mechanism contained in the states grizzly bear management plan.
As you may recall, grizzly bears were delisted in 2007 only to see them relisted via a petition which identified the loss of white bark pine trees and the food source they provided for grizzly bears. Throughout the year, I have visited with the states legal counsel assigned to the case as well as G&F personnel. Most were optimistic that the regulatory mechanism would be found adequate but several were concerned about the loss of white bark pine trees as a food source. The biologists I have spoken with, remained confident that grizzly bears are fully capable of adapting to the reduced production of pine nuts and sighted as their evidence the continued population expansion and growth of grizzly bear populations. However, on November 22 of this year, we learned that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued their findings.
The State was successful in its defense of the regulatory mechanism contained within their plan but suffered a minimal set back. A recent article published in the Cody Enterprise quoted Mark Bruscino, grizzly bear specialist for the WY G&F Department as having said that “this should only require a re-writing of the delisting rule rather than a complete overhaul of the proposed grizzly bear management plan. The new delisting rule will probably have to include new research on how grizzlies are adapting to changing conditions as well as clarification of research already done by the G&F Department”. WY SFW will continue to monitor the progress made as the state attempts to re-establish management authority of grizzly bears and restore a sustainable hunting season.
MULE DEER: The Wyoming G&F Department has held a series of meetings across SW Wyoming talking specifically about their Mule Deer Initiative and how they intend to apply it to the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Herd. Some of you may have been able to attend one or more of these meetings and could attest to the overall success of them. The meetings I have attended have been some of the best with the G&F personnel working hard to listen to and hear sportsmen’s concerns. It truly was a Collaborative Process used to develop this plan.
As a result of the many sportsmen which attended these meetings the G&F Department has developed a specific plan to address the Wyoming Range mule deer herd. This plan is based on management issues, objectives, strategies and actions identified through the collaborative learning process. Management issues include: Public Involvement & Outreach, Habitat Management, Population Management, Research, Predator Management, and Law Enforcement. Recently, another series of meetings were held throughout SW Wyoming and the WY G&F Department provided sportsmen with an annual up date and assessment of the mule deer initiative (see the WY Range Mule Deer Up Date Flyer).
Attendance was light considering how many sportsmen I talk with that expressed concern about mule deer in general and the Wyoming Range Mule Deer to be specific. Wyoming SFW is gearing up to become more involved with the G&F Department as they attempt to address static mule deer populations throughout the state. I believe sportsmen will have the opportunity to effectively engage with the G&F Department personnel to address chronic problems and lack-luster responses of mule deer populations to current practices. However, this will require greater participation of our members, as well as the public, should we expect to be successful in recovering mule deer populations. At the recent meetings, we were informed of some of the successes as well as some set backs that have occurred.
The underpass in Nugget Canyon continues to be a demonstration project of what can happen when an engineer with the Department of Transportation, who happens to be a sportsmen, engages with our G&F personnel to address the problems associated with roads and mule deer migration events. Wyoming has been very successful in coordinating efforts between our DOT forces and our G&F personnel. We really need someone that has strong ties with Union Pacific Railroad as there remain some areas which need to be addressed. Hopefully, WY SFW can help identify a sportsmen to help coordinate efforts to address and eliminate conflicts between mule deer and trains. One thing is obvious; it is truly amazing what can happen when diverse people attack a common problem.
For those that may not be familiar with the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Plan a listing of the new actions considered in the Wyoming Range Mule Deer plan are listed separately. WY SFW has spent a lot of its energy on these 3 issues. We will remain focused on them until our goals are achieved. As you review these items, I would hope that our members will truly understand what they have accomplished, as well as what can be accomplished. We are all fortunate to find ourselves in a great Country, comprised of many diverse and awesome states. Our proud hunting, fishing and trapping heritage is continually under assault by those which despise it and are seeking to redefine it. They will continue attempting to thwart our efforts but as a united and engaged force, sportsmen will continue to prevail and achieve our mission. Working with our allies, we are unstoppable.
Thanks again for your continues support and efforts to protect our Hunting, Fishing & Trapping Heritage.
Robert A. Wharff WY SFW Executive DirectorDecember 2011 Article