MISSOULA, Mont.—Gray wolf populations in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming need to be managed through state-regulated hunting—now.
That’s the upshot of a new Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation policy statement approved by its board of directors on March 4, 2009. The official action headlined a regular board meeting held in conjunction with the RMEF annual convention in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Wolf populations are well above recovery goals and federal protection is no longer justified. It’s clear to us that wolves now can be sustainably managed like bears, cougars and other restored predators,” said David Allen, Elk Foundation president and CEO.
Allen said wolves are an organizational concern because of their impacts to local elk herds, elk hunting success and participation, livestock and landowners, rural economies and the Elk Foundation’s own ability to facilitate collaborative conservation successes in the future.
To date, RMEF has helped protect or enhance over 5.5 million acres of habitat for elk and other wildlife.
Here’s the new policy statement in its entirety:
Official Policy Statement on Gray Wolf Restoration
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) decision to remove gray wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). In the case of the subject of gray wolf populations, ESA protection is no longer legally required or necessary. The recovery plan biological goals for wolves in the Rocky Mountains were attained in 2002. Both population size and breeding pair estimates now exceed recovery goals by 500 percent and 333 percent, respectively. The western Great Lakes population has also exceeded its population goals for several years.
The RMEF supports sound, science-based wildlife management that maintains a sustainable balance between predator and big-game species. We encourage the use of the best available science to finalize this delisting. Biologists, hunters, land managers, private landowners, and other citizens across the nation have worked hard and made sacrifices to achieve recovery for wolves.
RMEF and its primary support base, hunters and anglers, have always supported the legal protection of fish and wildlife species that require protection to survive and flourish.
We believe the following:
When wolf populations meet scientific viability criteria for recovery, they no longer require federal protection under ESA. They should be de-listed if recovery plan goals are met and where regulatory mechanisms are in place to adequately manage the species.
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.
Reflecting the success of other historic hunter/conservationist-led species recovery programs based on the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation, the management of wolves as game animals should occur in areas designated for wolf occupancy, and wolf seasons should be regulated by the states.
Where and when hunting is deemed appropriate under state regulations, methods used by hunters must conform to Fair Chase principles.
When classified as game animals, wolf populations should be maintained in accordance with the biological and cultural carrying capacities of the habitats they occupy.
Also, management of individual wolves and wolf populations should recognize the need to balance management objectives with respect for private property and human safety.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.5 million acres—a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.