Senate File 666, to reinstate the five-year moratorium on hunting wolves in the state of Minnesota passed the State Senate Environment and Energy Committee today, March 14, 2013, by a vote of 7-6. The bill will now go to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.
John Hottinger of the Sierra Club, Howard Goldman of the Humane Society of the United States, avid wolf watcher Debbie Pierce, Ojibwe Representative Nicole Hendrickson and Maureen Hackett of Howling for Wolves testified in support of SB 666.
Opposition testimony featured Tim Spreck of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, Wayne Johnson of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Gary Leistico of the Minnesota Trappers Association, Ely biologist and attorney Gerald Tyler, and Thom Peterson of the Minnesota Farmers Union.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Division Director Ed Boggess and biologist Dan Stark provided informational testimony at the request of the Committee.
In presenting the bill to the committee, primary sponsor of the bill Senate Majority Whip Chris A. Eaton (DFL-40) called it common sense to take the proper time to study the recovery of the wolf before allowing recreational hunting, particularly given the large economic investment and years dedicated to bringing the species back from the brink of extinction.
The Sierra Club’s John Hottinger said lamented the circumvention of a proper public comment process in removing the moratorium without the allowance for a scientific population assessment and a responsible data-driven plan.
The Humane Society of the United State’s Howard Goldman said there was “no biological basis for the hunt,” with the last statewide survey having been conducted in 2007. Goldman provided some statistics as to the number of human-caused wolf mortalities in Minnesota last year. He said that approximately 250 wolves were killed illegally (an estimate based on studies at Fort Ripley), 413 were killed as apart of the hunt, and 299 wolves were killed due to depredation concerns. According to Goldman, “Over thirty percent of the wolf population was killed last year due to human-caused mortality. The Department of Natural Resources and the State need to take the time to fully study the population to better understand the impact of delisting. We must err on the side of caution.”
Voting in support of the bill were Committee Chair John Marty (DFL-66), Vice Chair John Hoffman (DFL-36), Senator D. Scott Dibble (DFL-61), Senator Chris A. Eaton (DFL-40), Senator Foung Hawj (DFL-67), Bev Scalze (DFL-42) and Senator Katie Sieben (DFL-54).
Voting against the bill were Ranking Minority Member David Brown (R-15), Senator Michelle Benson (R-31), Senator Lyle Koenen (DFL-17), Senator David J. Osmek (R-33), Senator Julie A. Rosen (R-23), and Bill Weber (R-22).
Senator Matt Schmit (DFL-21) was not in attendance.