MISSOULA, Mont. - Following presentations by some of the nation's leading wolf authorities, the Boone and Crockett Club today reaffirmed its position that gray wolves should be delisted and managed as a game species by the states.
Experts, including the biologist directing wolf recovery efforts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, spoke at the Club's annual meeting, which concluded Saturday in Houston.
Presenters included Ed Bangs, national wolf recovery coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Valerius Geist, emeritus professor, University of Calgary; Carolyn A. Sime, wolf program coordinator, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Bob Model, Mooncrest Cattle Ranch in Cody, Wyoming; Cristina Eisenberg, Ph.D. candidate and Boone and Crockett fellow, Oregon State University; Dan Pletscher, director of wildlife biology program, University of Montana; and Paul R. Krausman, Boone and Crockett professor of wildlife conservation, University of Montana.
Topics included historical wolf reintroduction into Western habitats, expansion under Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection, current status, and the delisting efforts recently stalled in the courts.
"All of the facts and latest data reaffirm our position that the best hope for the gray wolf today is delisting from the Endangered Species List as planned, and turning management responsibilities over to state agencies. Tying up their future in the courts is not the answer," said Lowell E. Baier, president of Boone and Crockett Club.
Baier added, however, that these steps are merely the first in a wolf management process that promises complexity for decades afterward.
He explained, "The wolf issue is regional in nature but international in scope with an unprecedented range of stakeholders, many of whom are victims of the emotion and hyperbole surrounding this species. The polarization is like nothing else that conservationists have addressed - ever."
Since the time of Theodore Roosevelt, hunters have led a conservation movement that brought many species from vanishing to flourishing. Wolves, a comparatively new element in the balance after a 60-70 year absence, could have positive effects on overall ecosystem health. However, in the northern Rockies, historic behaviors and patterns of elk, deer and moose - prey for wolves and game for hunters - are in flux. Wolves are also impacting livestock. Without state administered management, wolves could seriously impact America's conservation system as well as private land, farming and ranching interests.
The Boone and Crockett Club authored a recent letter in support of delisting northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves, which was circulated through the Club-founded American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP) network. Eighteen conservation organizations endorsed the letter before it was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as official comment on the proposed delisting under the ESA.
The letter offered the following six principles to guide federal and state wildlife agencies.
1. When wolf populations meet scientific viability criteria for recovery they no longer require federal protection under the ESA. They should be de-listed if recovery plan goals are met and where regulatory mechanisms are in place to adequately manage the species.
2. After the wolf is de-listed, scientifically sound wolf management programs administered by state wildlife agencies should maintain sustainable wolf populations to preclude the need to re-list under the ESA.
3. Reflecting the success of other historic hunter/conservationist-led species recovery programs, wolves should be managed as big game animals in areas designated for wolf occupancy and wolf seasons should be regulated by the states.
4. Where and when hunting is deemed appropriate under state regulations, methods used by hunters must conform to fair chase principles.
5. When classified as game animals, wolf populations should be maintained in accordance with the biological and cultural carrying capacities of the habitats they occupy.
6. Management of individual wolves and wolf populations should also recognize the need to balance management objectives with respect for private property and human well being.
In the Fall 2008 edition of Boone and Crockett Club's member magazine, "Fair Chase," a series of articles looks at the wolf issue from all sides. This issue can be purchased ($7.95 plus shipping) online at www.booneandcrockettclub.com.
At their annual meetings, Club members address a range of conservation issues. Professional presentations, scientific research and committee reports guide Club activities. Over the past 121 years such meetings have resulted in actions that have helped shape every facet of conservation.
About the Boone and Crockett Club
Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club promotes guardianship and visionary management of big game and associated wildlife in North America. The Club maintains the highest standards of fair-chase sportsmanship and habitat stewardship. Member accomplishments include protecting Yellowstone and establishing Glacier and Denali national parks, founding the National Forest Service, National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge System, fostering the Pittman-Robertson and Lacey Acts, creating the Federal Duck Stamp program, and developing the cornerstones of modern game laws. The Boone and Crockett Club is headquartered in Missoula, Mont. For details, visit www.booneandcrockettclub.com.