Governor Brian Schweitzer said he was encouraged by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's release today of the draft Environmental Assessment for Montana's proposal to better control the wolf population in the Bitterroot Valley.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department submitted a 10(j) proposal in November and gathered public comment and review by other scientists. It would allow lethal take of wolves within the experimental population area.
"This is the first step toward enabling Montana to control wolves that are getting into trouble with livestock and adversely affecting specific elk herds in the Bitterroot," said Governor Schweitzer. "I have met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar many times about this issue and hope this process moves along without delay, so we can act quickly when more aggressive wolf management is necessary."
Rules under Section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act allow states or tribes in the Northern Rockies may propose such action when wolf predation is having an unacceptable impact on wild ungulate populations. Prior to implementation, USFWS must find that the proposal is science-based, will not reduce wolf numbers below acceptable levels, and will not impede wolf recovery. If it passes muster, an estimated 30 wolves in three to five packs may be reduced to as few as 12 wolves in two or three packs.