Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager
On June 25, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) held an open house and public comment period in Brainerd, Minnesota regarding the delisting of gray wolves from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
The event filled the 300-seat venue in northern Minnesota and had 81 speakers sign-up to speak, including several legislators and other elected officials. According to Dave Carlson, President of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, “There was a good 70/30 split in favor of delisting with big-hitter organizations recognizing the sound science and the history of state management practices behind the benefits of delisting the gray wolf. The Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance testified that sportsmen are wildlife conservationists and want professional wildlife managers determining a balance of all wildlife populations.”
Between 2003 – 2011, the USFWS attempted to delist gray wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin four times, each resulting in the courts blocking the action. In order to ensure that the best available science used in decision-making, management authority over gray wolves should be returned to the state fish and wildlife agencies. These agencies are responsible for managing the vast majority of fish and wildlife in their states and have done so with continuous success for more than a century. The success story of the gray wolf in the Great Lakes Region should be used as an example for future restoration efforts.
According to The Revised Recovery Plan of 1992, population goals for Minnesota were set between 1,251 – 1,400 individuals spread across 40% of the state. Michigan and Wisconsin had population goals of 100 individuals each. There are now an estimated 2,655 wolves in Minnesota, 662 in Michigan (excluding Isle Royale), and 905 living in Wisconsin. In fact, each state has exceeded its target population goal every year since 1996. For the past 23 years, these states have had a healthy, sustainable, and growing population of wolves – yet they are not allowed to manage them.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) worked with many lawmakers to encourage their attendance at the hearing and to provide them with accurate information. CSF also worked with many in-state partners to submit a letter in support of delisting the gray wolf to the Service before the hearing (written testimony can be submitted until July 15). Because target population goals have been met and exceeded throughout the region, the management authority for gray wolves in the region should be transferred back to state fish and wildlife agencies. Signatories included CSF, Minnesota Bear Guides Association, Minnesota Game Breeders and Shooting Preserve Association, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, Minnesota Trappers Association, and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?