Montana Stockgrowers Association actively pursuing congressional wolf delisting solution

Helena – The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) recently announced its support of several congressional bills seeking to remove the gray wolf from the list of endangered species and return management to the state of Montana.

“The bottom line for us is to get wolves off the endangered species list so ranchers can have more tools to deal with increasing wolf populations and livestock depredations,” said Errol Rice, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “We feel this is the opportune time for Congress to gain momentum on this important issue, now and into the next Congress.”

In late October, MSGA joined thirteen livestock groups in writing a letter of support for H.R. 6028 sponsored by Congressman Edwards D-TX, with 14 co-sponsors including Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg, and S. 3919 sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch R-UT along with four co-sponsors, which seek to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list. Other signatories on the letters of support include the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Public Lands Council, the American Sheep Industry Association as well as the Montana Public Lands Council, the Montana Association of State Grazing Districts and Montana’s neighboring Idaho Cattle Association and Wyoming Stock Growers Association. (To see the letters, go to www.mtbeef.org/content/images/HR6028Support.pdf and www.mtbeef.org/content/images/S3919Support.pdf)

MSGA has also offered support to a bill drafted by Montana Senator Max Baucus, S. 3864 “Restoring State Wildlife Management Act of 2010.” The bill, co-sponsored by Montana Senator Jon Tester, would remove the Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the endangered species list once Montana’s state management plan is approved by the Secretary of the Interior.

MSGA has been active representing ranchers on the wolf issue for nearly 20 years.
· In 1991, MSGA filed as interveners in the case when the Defenders of Wildlife were seeking to force the federal government to introduce wolves into Yellowstone before completion of an Environmental Impact Statement. The complaint was dismissed.
· On February 1, 1996, the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA), Beartooth Stock Association and Vernon Keller filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order against the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Park Service trying to halt the release of the additional wolves into the park.
· Once wolves were re-introduced, MSGA began to actively participate in a series of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks State Wolf Management Plan meetings to provide extensive comments detailing livestock concerns. MSGA also worked with the Wolf Advisory Council on the development of the plan.
· In 2008, MSGA intervened in a federal lawsuit filed by environmental groups to block wolf delisting.
· MSGA participated in the development of Montana’s wolf livestock loss and mitigation program to reimburse livestock producers for livestock losses due to wolves. In 2009, MSGA worked with Montana Senator Jon Tester on his Federal Wolf Livestock Loss Demonstration Project, better known as the Wolf Kill Bill, which allowed the federal government to approve a 50-percent cost share of funds for repayment for depredation and proactive incentives, up to $1 million per year.

“MSGA has been extremely active standing up for Montana’s family ranchers on all fronts of the wolf issue,” Rice said. “We will continue to work hard to ensure that ranchers can protect their livestock. Our best option right now is for Congress to support one of these bills, or a compromise between them, so wolves can be delisted finally and permanently.”

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