The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a long-time advocate for the state management of wolves, recently supplied written comment to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) as the state agency formulates a new gray wolf management plan.
FWP developed the 2003 Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and associated environmental impact statement 20 years ago. Since then, FWP incorporated new and improved research, management tools and methods into its gray wolf management strategy. However, they are not described in the 2003 plan, so Montana Governor Greg Gianforte asked FWP to create a new management plan with broad public engagement due to the statewide interest in wolf management.
In relation to its comments, RMEF expressed appreciation for FWP’s commitment to continued research on wolf status, population demographics and predator/prey ecology, but also expressed concern about the wolf predation pressure experienced by elk. In managing the ecological and social impacts of wolves on prey species, RMEF recommended including information on how elk population demographics and distribution may be altered by wolf behavior. Inclusion of the direct, as well as indirect, impacts wolves have on elk and other big game populations is essential. Recent studies show how increased predation pressure causes shifts in elk distribution, and potentially reduces elk access to quality forage and critical habitat.
RMEF stated its support of hunting and trapping as key management tools in line with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, FWP’s use of emerging science and science-based monitoring to track monitor wolf populations, and FWP’s commitment to both lethal and nonlethal solutions in dealing with conflict.
RMEF has a long conservation history in Montana. Dating back to 1984, RMEF and its partners completed 1,244 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Montana with a combined value of more than $230.2 million. These projects conserved and enhanced 936,451 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 375,124 acres.
(Photo credit: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)