Two years after the temporary ban on hunting wolves was lifted behind the closed doors of the Minnesota State Legislature’s shutdown, Senate File 666, a bill to reinstate the five-year moratorium will be heard in the State Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Thursday, March 14, 2013, at noon.
In 2001, the State Legislature passed law to prohibit hunting of wolves for a five year period in the state of Minnesota if and when the wolf was taken off the Endangered Species List. The law came out of a Department of Natural Resources-convened Wolf Management Roundtable with a diverse make-up of hunters, trappers, tribes, farmers, and animal welfare advocates. “Essentially, the five-year moratorium was a compromise between those who wanted to open up hunting of the wolf immediately after the species was delisted, and those who opposed wolf hunting,” says Humane Society of the United States Minnesota State Director Howard Goldman.
The Roundtable wanted the opportunity to survey the wolf population after delisting, and receive extensive public comment on the issue. “We wanted to be very careful about this,” says Goldman, “and think long and hard before we opened up the wolf to sport hunting. There weren’t objections to depredation, preventing wolves from killing livestock.”
Another significance of the five-year moratorium is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s practicing of monitoring any species for five years after it has been removed from the Endangered Species List. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Section 4(g) of the Endangered Species Act (Act) requires the Service to monitor, for a minimum of five years, any species that is delisted due to its recovery. The intent of this monitoring is to determine whether the species should be proposed for relisting under the normal listing procedures, relisted under the emergency listing authority of the Act, or kept off of the list because it remains neither threatened nor endangered.” Specifics of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s five-year plan are available on their website at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/delisting/PostDelistFWSRole.html.
The gray wolf was removed from the Endangered Species List in the Western Great Lakes Region (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and portions of adjacent states) on January 27, 2012. A Minnesota state law passed in 2011 removed the five-year moratorium, allowing for immediate hunting and taking of up to 400 wolves in Minnesota.
Past supporters of the wolf hunt have included cattlemen, the farm bureau and farmers’ union, who have concerns about depredation, as well as deer hunters, who perceive wolves as competitor for deer take, and want to hunt wolves as trophies.
Since the removal of the wolf from the Endangered Species list, Wisconsin has also opened up the wolf for sport hunting. Michigan will have a hunt next year.
In addition to fighting the wolf hunt in state legislatures, advocates are taking to the court system to protect the species. On February 12, 2013, the Humane Society of the United States, Born Free USA, Help Our Wolves Live, and Friends of Animals and Their Environment filed a lawsuit in federal courts against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, alleging that the wolf has not recovered in the Western Great Lakes region and should be placed on the Endangered Species List.
Additionally, the Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves have filed suit in Minnesota, charging the state with inappropriately using emergency rulemaking procedures thereby disallowing the opportunity for public comment. The case will next be heard in the state Supreme Court.
The Humane Society of the United States is asking for help from those wishing to reinstate the five-year moratorium. “We’d like them to do two things,” says Goldman. “First, we’d like them to attend the Minnesota State Senate Environment and Energy Committee hearing on Thursday, March 14 at noon. Second, we’re asking that they write their State Senators and State Representatives and ask them to support Senate File 666 and House File 1163.