January 28, 2014 - Legislative Hearing On Wolf Management

Hearing January 28, 2014 MN House Environment and Natural Resources Committee

For our part, wolf advocates did a great job and gave valid and essential testimony that garnered close attention from the committee members. Our leader, Maureen Hackett, MD emphasized the need to address human attitudes in order to have effective wolf management. Dr. Hackett also spoke of the indiscriminate methods used to kill wolves. 

The committee heard extensive testimony from the DNR, allowing time for questions from committee members. A range of topics were raised including: poaching, population monitoring, depredation, current research, consultation with state tribes, wolf management funding, and wolves’ impact on moose.

Representative Jason Isaacson (DFL Shoreview), lead author of a bill in the house to suspend the wolf hunt, pressed the DNR on key areas of the Wolf Management Plan that have been largely ignored. Instead of following the wolf plan, a wolf hunt has been masqueraded for balanced wolf management. DNR Wolf Specialist, Dan Stark, had few answers. Read more about the highlights from the hearing, below.

Wolf Management hearing coverages starts at 1 hour, 6 minute mark of the video:  Legislative Hearing on Wolf Management

Hearing Highlights: Recap

Primary Clients: Rep Isaacson read an email written by the DNR stating”…we owe it to our primary clients, the hunters and trappers and to our secondary clients the livestock producers to establish a legitimate harvest opportunity…” Rep. Isaacson expressed dismay that the DNR caved to pressure by special interests and ignored the public in their rush to a hunt even without a baseline survey.

On Poaching: The DNR acknowledged that it has no direct measure to assess poaching.  They reported no poachers were prosecuted this year: zero. Our DNR sources indicate in private and off the record that an estimated 10% of the wolf population is killed illegally every year.

Wolf Population Monitoring: The DNR acknowledged that no baseline population survey was done before the first ever recreational hunt. A baseline is essential science and if done would aid the state’s understanding of the 25% decline in wolf numbers. They stated they would have needed to postpone the first wolf hunting season in order to collect baseline data.

On wolf-livestock conflicts:  The DNR acknowledged that the programs now only react to complaints. They confirm if a complaint is really due to a wolf and they provide trapping services to kill the wolf. They have no plan for preventing depredation wolf conflicts. Two full years into state management and just now they are developing a brochure on depredation for farmers and livestock producers. No publication timeframe was given.

On Current Research: The DNR acknowledged that outside of it’s radio collared wolves, virtually no research is being directly conducted on the wolf population. They rely on other researchers and extrapolation techniques to guide management decisions.

On Consultation With State Tribes: The DNR acknowledged that it got off to a bumpy start with tribes on this issue, and that it has done a poor job of working with them to address their concerns. The DNR claims it is now reaching out to tribes following the direction provided in the executive order by the Governor.

On Wolf Management Funding: Ed Boggess, DNR Director of Fish and Wildlife testified that the DNR is fully staffed and funded for wolf management operations, and they are not seeking additional funding appropriation from the legislature. This stands in stark contrast to much of the other DNR testimony that confirmed significant deficiencies within DNR wolf management operations.

On Wolves Impact To Moose: Several pro-hunt Representatives raised the issue of wolves impact to moose, and had the DNR testify about their calf project using radio collars. The DNR provided data that was used to support the false notion that wolves are responsible for the decline of the moose population. No representative of the DNR in attendance, including Commissioner Landwehr, Ed Boggess, and Dan Stark, added any balanced context to this testimony. Most notably, that there is no direct correlation between the decline of the moose and the current wolf population level.

Lawmakers can stop the DNR:  The hearing exposed significant deficiencies in the state Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) ability to manage wolves as they are not following their own wolf management plan. But they will not change course, unless they are ordered to change course. The leadership and the DNR would love to keep things quiet. We can stop them by pressuring our lawmakers.

Now is the Time: We have a bill that is still “alive” and able to be moved toward becoming law this legislative session (SF 666). This bill is for a moratorium on wolf hunting and this bill passed a senate committee last session.  This bill has not had a vote in committee in the house and it will not move forward unless we engage our lawmakers and keep theirs and the public’s attention for the rest of this legislative session.  Remember that Governor Dayton said that the legislature must pass a bill for him to suspend the wolf hunt?  This is what he meant, and this is what we can do. Here are actions you can do to keep momentum going forward and suspending this hunt.

●     Call and write your district legislators if you are Minnesota based. The Representative and Senator from your district are your access points to the legislative process. Get in contact with them, stay in contact with them, urge them to act to correct DNR mis-management of wolves. Click here to find contact information for your representatives. Recruit others too!

●     Attend Wolf Day at the Capitol on February 27th. We are organizing an all-day event that includes meetings with legislators and an organized rally in the Capitol Rotunda. Take the time to participate and meet with your district officials  It’s their job to listen to your concerns and act as needed. Click here to learn more and rsvp.

●     Letters to the Editor: These are effective. Allow us to help you publish a letter in a newspaper. In particular, we need letters published in districts of committee members.  We can help you do this. Contact us.

●     Stay tuned to our emails for more actions.

Please keep in mind, always be respectful when communicating your thoughts with elected officials and others. Nothing hurts our efforts more than poor behavior. Fair or not, the good and the bad become attributed to Howling For Wolves around the Capitol because it’s convenient. 

January 30, 2014