A House-Senate conference committee found middle ground on managing the state's
wolves Wednesday, which means the wolf could be on its way back to state control
after more than two decades on the federal endangered species list. The
committee's bill would provide more latitude to landowners to get rid of problem
wolves, but would delay sport hunting and trapping at least five years.
have been a success story for the Endangered Species Act, but
they have remained under federal jurisdiction while the state's legislators
debate how to manage the recovered population. Legislators broke through to a
compromise in conference committee, agreeing on a bill that expands shooting and
trapping of wolves attacking livestock or pets. The bill does not include a
sport hunting and trapping season, which had been a central provision in the
House bill. Republican Representative Tim Finseth of Angus says the House
conceded that point in order to see some progress.
"We realized the Senate was not going to accept it and we had to have a
bill," he said. "The ultimate goal is to get the de-listing process going."
Finseth says many House members still support a hunting and trapping season but
are willing to vote for the conference committee bill this year.
"I think we'll have votes to pass the bill, I'm not too worried about
that I guess, I think the members know that it's the right thing to do."
Some senators on the conference committee say they have strong reservations
about the compromise bill, and could not commit to voting for it themselves when
it returns to the Senate floor. DFL Senator Ellen Anderson of St. Paul was the
lone vote against the conference committee bill. She says she wants to address
landowners' concerns about wolf attacks on livestock, but a provision allowing
landowners to shoot wolves on their property at any time goes too far.
"The biggest problem that I see is there's a provision in here that
allows farmers to shoot wolves on sight in the agricultural zone and I just
think that's unacceptable to Minnesotans," Anderson said.
The agricultural zone would include the southeastern two-thirds of the state.
In that area landowners would have broad discretion to shoot or trap wolves. In
the northern third of the state, based on wolves' historic range, wolves would
retain more protections.
DFL Senator Becky Lourey of Kerrick protested that
the division would create in effect "two Minnesotas," with different
circumstances for neighboring farms. Of special concern were farms just over the
line into the so-called "wolf zone," where they face more damage from wolves and
more restrictions in addressing it.
But DNR Deputy Commissioner Steve Morse says
the bill would allow trapping for wolves up to 60 days after a verified attack
in that area, and will ultimately open the door for more stringent measures.
"This bill gives them a lot of things they don't have now," he said. "That would be
the directed predator control, some abilities to take wolves and to protect
their livestock and if there's an immediate threat to protect their livestock by
taking wolves. And probably more importantly than that, we believe it'll move
the wolf through the delisting process, through the courts, and back into state
control so in the future we'll have more options to deal with those people in
Legislators also tried to balance the bill to help it stand up in court. Wolf
advocates especially oppose the provision allowing landowners to shoot wolves
and have promised to fight the wolf's removal from the endangered-species list.
The bill now goes to both chambers where lawmakers must vote it up or down