Pinedale plan proposes wolf protections
Improving wolf habitat, conservation measures outside of experimental population area, changing livestock practices harmful to wolves.
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
February 11, 2007
Although federal rules promulgated when wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park as a non-essential experimental population promised that no federal land use restrictions would be needed outside the national parks to protect wolves, the draft Pinedale Resource Management Plan environmental impact statement seems to reneg on that commitment.
The EIS was prepared by a consulting firm for the Bureau of Land Management.
The EIS calls for wolf conservation measures, including: “No project actions are to be located within 330 feet of den sites between April 1 and June 30. Areas within 0.8 kilometers (0.5 miles) of a den site are recommended for protection from disturbance.”
But the wolf reintroduction rule (which is still in effect) was specific in stating: “When six or more breeding pairs are established in an experimental population area, no land-use restrictions may be employed outside of national parks or national wildlife refuges, unless wolf populations fail to maintain positive growth rates toward population recovery levels for two consecutive years. If such a situation arose, state and tribal agencies would identify, recommend, and implement corrective management actions within one year, possibly including appropriate land-use restrictions to promote growth of the wolf population.”
But federal wildlife officials report that the wolf population continues to grow beyond recovery goals.
Protection of wolf denning and rendezvous sites was debated years ago, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejecting calls to implement more land use restrictions to protect wolves.
The agency stated in its rulemaking: “Wolves are adaptable to a wide variety of human activities, except for deliberate killing. Experiences in North America indicate that human disturbance, even around active den sites, is not a significant factor affecting wolf survival or population growth. The rule protects active wolf dens during the earliest stages of wolf recovery, if necessary.
Killing wolves is illegal except for a very few limited exceptions. The rule allows flexibility to reconsider land use restrictions if wolf populations do not grow toward recovery levels. Wolves in Montana have not needed land-use restrictions and, at this time, land-use restrictions do not appear necessary for wolf populations to recover in Idaho or Wyoming.”
Not only does the BLM’s Pinedale plan EIS propose restrictions, but now it appears that the BLM is proposing to tell livestock producers how to do something many thought impossible: the agency plans to tell producers about “compatible lambing and calving methods that reduce or eliminate wolf depredation in occupied habitat.” The EIS does not define what these methods might consist of.
The EIS detailed which areas it views as occupied by wolves as: “The Pinedale planning area provides habitat to gray wolf populations. The Black Butte pack uses the Upper Green River, the Daniel pack uses the Wyoming Range, and the Prospect pack occurs near Farson, Wyoming.”
The RMP EIS is based on the assumption that large predators (specifically wolves and grizzly bears) will continue “to increase their range and would impact livestock grazing on BLM allotments.”
That’s not the plan state officials are hoping or planning for. Increased wolf and bear presence in southern portions of Sublette County aren’t in either the state or federal management plans for these species.
In addition to the conservation measures discussed above, here’s the specifics of what the RMP EIS proposes:
• Take action to help reduce human-caused mortality wherever possible. For example, provide educational material, as appropriate, to avoid the inadvertent killing of a wolf mistaken for a coyote; provide information on compatible grazing practices (see #3 below); and avoid situations that lead to the adoption of human foods and garbage by wolves, which could lead to biting by and the subsequent elimination of the wolf.
• Disseminate information useful to livestock producers on wolf/livestock interactions; alternative livestock practices that minimize conflicts between wolves and livestock (e.g., dispersed grazing rather than concentrated grazing); and compatible lambing and calving methods that reduce or eliminate wolf depredation in occupied habitat.
• Designate a state representative to attend the annual interagency coordination meeting.
• Continue to attend the annual coordination meetings with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Best Management Practices
1. Avoid an increase in miles of road in crucial elk winter range.
2. Avoid situations that allow for wolves to habituate to humans or become exposed to and use human refuse as a food source.
3. Foster public outreach/education programs to provide wolf information in schools, campgrounds, and other places. Topics can include but not be limited to personal safety around wolves, wolf ecology, wolf mortality factors, and livestock grazing practices harmful to wolves.
4. Continue to support the research and documentation of wolf/livestock interactions and livestock grazing practices to improve these practices so they are more compatible with wolves.
5. Continue to provide and improve wolf habitat by monitoring elk populations and improving habitat for elk.
6. Encourage reporting of wolf observations by BLM staff and the public to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.