Officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced the members of a new wolf plan advisory committee this week and while some of the names on the list and the organizations they represent shouldn’t come as a surprise, there are a couple of head scratchers on there as well.
It’ll be interesting to see how much progress can be made at a table that features hunters, trappers and farmers on one end and officials from groups like Howling for Wolves and Center for Biological Diversity on the other.
The committee was formed to help with update of Minnesota’s wolf management plan, which was originally adopted in 2001.
According to the DNR the wolf management plan “provides the framework that guides the state’s decisions about wolf regulations, population monitoring, management, conflicts, enforcement, damage control, education, research and other issues. ”
In a press release, DNR officials said the 20 committee members that were chosen to represent diverse perspectives, including hunting and trapping; wolf advocacy and animal rights; livestock and agriculture; and other interests related to wolf conservation and management.
“We selected committee members to represent a range of perspectives on wolves, ” said Dan Stark, DNR wolf management specialist. “We expect committee members to work constructively to identify issues, discuss differences, and explore options for enhancing wolf conservation in Minnesota. ”
DNR officials say they are “committed to taking a comprehensive approach to sustaining healthy wolf populations in Minnesota. ”
The plan update is independent of any federal action on the status of wolves under the Endangered Species Act and the committee is one of several ways the DNR will work with the public in updating the plan.
In addition to the advisory committee, the DNR will gather public input through a public attitude survey, open houses, public meeting, and public comment period on a draft plan.
The DNR will also coordinate and communicate directly with Minnesota’s tribal governments regarding the plan update. In addition, the DNR will form a technical committee that includes representatives of agencies, academic institutions, and organizations involved in wolf management and research in Minnesota to provide expert input to the planning process.
In March 2019, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a rule that considers the delisting of gray wolves as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act in the contiguous United States.
Wolves in the U. S. outside Alaska first received endangered species protections in 1975 when fewer than 1,000 remained — all of them in Northeastern Minnesota — after centuries of unregulated hunting, trapping and poisoning.
Now there are an estimated 5,000 wolves, mostly in the upper Great Lakes and northern Rocky Mountain west, and it is way past the time to put management in local hands, where it was briefly several years back.
The most recent delisting effort, in 2012, allowed state agencies to hold wolf trapping and hunting seasons for three years until late 2014 when a federal judge ruled that the agency had erred in taking wolves off the endangered list too soon.
That decision was upheld in 2017 by a federal appeals court decision, keeping wolves protected across the region to this point.
According to the most recent wolf population survey in the state done in 2018, there are approximately 465 packs in Minnesota that average a mid-winter pack size of 4.85. That number puts the population estimate at about 2,655.
Twenty years earlier, in 1988, the DNR estimated the population size to be approximately 1,521 wolves in 233 packs. In 1998 the pack size was estimated to be 385 with a population of 2,445 wolves statewide.
While the DNR says it believe it “is critical to have all voices about wolves at the table during this process, ” I question what kind of productive conversion and decision making can come from having representatives from two groups (Howling for Wolves and Center for Biological Diversity) at the table whose agenda is so clearly one-sided.
Between the lawsuits, the lobbying and the letters to politicians, both organizations have made it clear where they stand and why.
Perhaps getting the different sides at a table to talk face-to-face will lead to some sort of common ground break through, but I doubt it.
Either way we will keep checking in on the progress.
The updated management plan is expected to be available in early 2021 and the current plan can be found on the Minnesota DNR’s website.
The following is a list of advisory committee members:
• Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity.
• Ellen Candler, Minnesota Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
• Christine Coughlin, Humane Society of the United States.
• Jason Dinsmore, National Wildlife Federation/ MN Conservation Federation.
•Jess Edberg, at-large member.
•Scott Engle, at-large member.
•Craig Engwall, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.
•Nancy Gibson, International Wolf Center.
•Miles Kuschel, Minnesota Farm Bureau.
•Gary Leistico, Minnesota Trappers Association.
•Travis Luedke, at-large member.
•Allen Lysdahl, Hubbard County Natural Resource Management Department.
•Angela McLaughlin, at-large member.
•Shirley Nordrum, at-large member.
•Susan Peet, at-large member.
•Gary Peterson, Carlton County Commissioner, representing Association of Minnesota Counties.
•Peter Ripka, Minnesota Farmers Union.
•William Severud, Minnesota Chapter of The Wildlife Society.
•Jacob Thompson, Minnesota State Cattleman’s Association.
•Joseph Wolf, Howling for Wolves.
For more information on some of the groups involved see: