Volume 2, Number 31 - October 31, 2002
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Ag producers hold wolf meeting
About 40 sportsmen and members of the agricultural community met in Jackson Monday morning to discuss how wolves should be managed in the state upon removal of federal protections for the species.
The meeting, hosted by the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation and Wyoming Stock Growers Association, was conducted in an attempt to come to an agreement on the future of wolf management in preparation of making a recommendation to the Wyoming Game and Fish (WG&F) Commission later that day.
Sublette County was well represented at the meeting, with Bill Barney, Mark Jones, Paul Hagenstein, Stan Murdock and Charles Price in attendance. People traveled from as far as Douglas, Gillette, Cokeville, Alpine and Rock Springs to participate, including three county commissioners from Fremont County.
Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association explained that at the last WG&F Commission meeting, the commission voted to seek a dual classification for wolves, with the animals classified as a trophy game animal in wilderness areas adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, and classified as a predator elsewhere in the state outside the park and wilderness areas.
"That clearly wasn't the position the department wanted them to take," Magagna explained, adding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicated that delisting probably wouldn't move forward with Wyoming undertaking such an action. Magagna also informed the group that WG&F Department personnel were expected to request the commission rescind its support for dual classification and instead classify the animals as a trophy game animal statewide.
Magagna advocated requesting the commission stick to its already adopted position, while Marvin Applequist of Wyoming Farm Bureau advocated keeping wolves classified as a predator. Although wolves as currently classified as a predator under state law, meaning the animals can be harvested without limit, the Endangered Species Act trumps state law, so wolves are granted full protection from harvest.
Applequist also reminded the group that wolves were reintroduced into Wyoming as an "experimental, non-essential" population, "so we don't have to have wolves."
Bryce Reece of Wyoming Wool Growers Association said, while he lives in Casper, "My neighbors will not suffer any economic losses, but my members will. Our folks are the ones who are going to suffer."
Reece reminded the group that there is one wolf pack in the Yellowstone region that has 23 members.
"Twenty-three wolves hunting together is something I don't think any of us can fathom," Reece said. Reece advocated the development of a statewide plan the people of the state could be happy with and if FWS doesn't like the plan, then federal management could continue.
Bending to federal pressure would result in a state plan that is "nothing more than a federal plan with a state cover on it. That is not what we will support," Reece said.
"This animal can put you out if it's not managed in the right way," Reece said.
Charles Price of Daniel, representing the Upper Green River Cattle Association, said livestock losses due to predators is now running about six or seven percent. Price said his organization supports the dual classification and pushed for federal funding for wolf management. Price said if the dual classification isn't approved, legal action should be pursued to remove the wolves from the area as a failed experiment.
Price said he personally feels the WG&F "is out of control. It is not responsible to anybody and is not responsible."
Jackson cattleman Terry Schramm of the Walton Ranch said of Price, "He ain't seen nothing yet," noting his livestock losses due to predators on federal grazing allotments were up to 10 to 12 percent per year for the last six years he used the allotments.
"The Game and Fish knows they put me out of business," Schramm said. "I wouldn't compromise with them one iota. We give and they take."
Schramm said the department's proposal would "jeopardize every stock grower in western Wyoming."
"Never go into negotiation with those who make the rules," Schramm warned. "You'll lose."
Mary Thoman of Fontenelle said Schramm is right: "If we don't draw the line, we're out of business. The Thoman family runs three bands of sheep in the Upper Green River region each year and have been hit hard by predators. Thoman pointed out that few animals killed by sheep are ever found, so getting kills verified for compensation is extremely difficult.
Cora area rancher Stan Murdock said he originally thought if livestock producers were compensated for their losses, he could live with these animals.
"I have been proven totally wrong," Murdock said. Although Murdock has been eligible for compensation, he has not sought compensation because he said the program is "designed not to work" and only provides cents on the dollar.
Mark Jones (half of that famous Mayo/Jones Boulder-area wolf team roping duo), president of the Sublette County Farm Bureau , said more producers are experiencing higher losses on their mountain allotments as the wolf population expands. If the state is allowed to add more wilderness areas into the wolf management areas, "they're just putting more of us out of business."
Maury Jones of the Jackson Hole Outfitters and Guides Association said, "We see in our industry the end of hunting" with the impact of wolves on big game populations. Jones said the state legislature should "get a backbone" and claim authority for wolves in Wyoming as a predator that can be shot on sight.
Fremont County Commissioner Cros Allen reminded the group that his commission passed resolutions declaring wolves and grizzly bears to be unacceptable species that are not welcome in Fremont County.
"We have no intention of backing off of our resolutions," Allen said. He said the commission knew it was taking a bold step, and knew such action was needed. Allen said his concern is the loss to the local economy as local producers go out of business or lose profitability and the ripple effect that has on the economy.
Gene Hardy of Douglas said while his area of the state isn't dealing with wolves, it is dealing with prairie dogs and Preble's mice issues.
"It's just a matter of time ... we'll have them just as you people do," Hardy said.
Pat Moore of Dubois, representing People for Wyoming, said wolves are "the instrument by which private property rights will be taken. This is an entire agenda."
Bill Barney of Big Piney suggested that wolves remain classified as a predator outside national parks in Wyoming. Barney expressed concern about allowing wolves to be classified as trophy game animals in wilderness areas adjacent to the parks because livestock producers with wilderness allotments would be left with no protections.
Rock Springs sheepman Bill Taliaferro said in his lifetime he has watched the number of domestic sheep in the state decline from 4 million to about half a million now. He said the Rock Springs Grazing Association, with checkerboard grazing lands about the same size as Yellowstone National Park, would be lucky if it winters 45,000 sheep this year.
"If we don't produce livestock, someone is going to own that," Taliaferro said of the 2 million acre rangeland, of which half is private land.
After all in the room had their say, Magagna asked if the consensus was that wolves should be classified as predators outside the parks. Everyone agreed, with only Jon Robinett of the Diamond G Ranch near Dubois disagreeing. Robinett wanted a tiered classification system, with varied restrictions depending on whether the wolves were on park service land, public land or private land.
The meeting concluded two hours after it began with vows that the participants would stay in Jackson for a few more hours to have their say to the WG&F Commission.
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