2007-02-01 / Columns

Outdoor Matters

DNR Advisory Group Helps Guide Wolf Management in Michigan
A column from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Members of the wolf management roundtable met in St. Ignace for their last meeting. Participants are (from left) Gaylord Alexander, Michigan Resource Stewards; Douglas Erickson, Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Commission; Miles Falck, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission; Michael Thorman, Michigan Hunting Dog Federation; Kerry Mullin, Michigan Humane Society; James Dabb, Safari Club International; Benjamin Bartlett, Michigan State University Extension; Gary Modlin, Upper Peninsula Whitetails Association; Steven Schaub, TimberWolf Alliance; Nancy Warren, Defenders of Wildlife; Matthew Wood, Michigan Hunting Dog Federation; Douglas Crave, Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority; John Talsma, Michigan Farm Bureau; David Cromell, Michigan Sheriffs Association; John Hongisto, Upper Peninsula Sportsmen's Alliance; Patrick Lederle, DNR; Jimmie Mitchell, Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority; Dale DuFour, Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Commission; Marvin Roberson, Sierra Club; Thomas Courchaine, DNR; R. Ben Peyton, Michigan State University; Cynthia Radcliffe, National Wildlife Federation; Jason Dinsmore, Michigan United Conservation Clubs and Todd Hogrefe, DNR. Members of the wolf management roundtable met in St. Ignace for their last meeting. Participants are (from left) Gaylord Alexander, Michigan Resource Stewards; Douglas Erickson, Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Commission; Miles Falck, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission; Michael Thorman, Michigan Hunting Dog Federation; Kerry Mullin, Michigan Humane Society; James Dabb, Safari Club International; Benjamin Bartlett, Michigan State University Extension; Gary Modlin, Upper Peninsula Whitetails Association; Steven Schaub, TimberWolf Alliance; Nancy Warren, Defenders of Wildlife; Matthew Wood, Michigan Hunting Dog Federation; Douglas Crave, Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority; John Talsma, Michigan Farm Bureau; David Cromell, Michigan Sheriffs Association; John Hongisto, Upper Peninsula Sportsmen's Alliance; Patrick Lederle, DNR; Jimmie Mitchell, Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority; Dale DuFour, Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Commission; Marvin Roberson, Sierra Club; Thomas Courchaine, DNR; R. Ben Peyton, Michigan State University; Cynthia Radcliffe, National Wildlife Federation; Jason Dinsmore, Michigan United Conservation Clubs and Todd Hogrefe, DNR. Wolves are no longer rare in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

During the 2006 wolf survey conducted by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) last winter, biologists estimated Michigan is home to more than 430 wolves.

After wolves began a natural recolonization of the U.P in the early 1990s, a Michigan Gray Wolf Recovery and Management Plan was developed. Since then, the wolf population has grown steadily.

"The Michigan wolf population has reached a level where it is no longer at risk of extinction and it is time to focus on wolf management rather than wolf recovery," said Todd Hogrefe, DNR endangered species coordinator. "With wolfhuman interactions becoming more common, our management and education efforts must address both positive and negative experiences people can have with wolves."

The DNR currently is revising its gray wolf management plan. In the 10 years since that plan was finalized, wolf population size and distribution have expanded, and understanding of wolf biology has improved. The plan revision will allow the DNR to continue to conserve and manage wolves based on the best available scientific information.

The plan revision also is being conducted in anticipation of a change in federal status. Wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have increased to the level where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.

Public input is critical for formulating a successful plan. In May 2005, the DNR conducted 10 public meetings (six in the U.P. and four in the Lower Peninsula) to identify wolf management issues. An open public-comment period also provided opportunities for input from citizens who could not attend the public meetings.

Based on the issues identified in the public's response, the DNR asked researchers at Michigan State University to conduct a large survey of citizens' attitudes toward wolves and wolf management. Nearly 10,000 Michigan citizens were contacted.

Results suggested Michigan citizens have a wide range of values, beliefs, and attitudes toward wolves. A wolf management roundtable was created by DNR Wildlife Chief Bill Moritz to address different opinions of how wolves should be managed. The roundtable contained representa- tives from 20 organizations and agencies, including stakeholder groups, tribes, and the DNR.

The roundtable was charged with recommending guiding principles for management of wolves following federal delisting. The group was facilitated by Dr. R. Ben Peyton of Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

"The roundtable participants contributed a substantial amount of time and effort," Mr. Moritz said. "With Dr. Peyton facilitating these sessions, we had high expectations of the outcome. Ben did an incredible job, as did the participants."

The group held 10 meetings between June and November 2006.

In its report, the roundtable offers recommendations pertaining to wolf distribution and abundance, benefits of wolves, management of wolf-related conflicts, information and education, funding, research, hybrid and captive wolves, and future plan revisions.

"The group really didn't know what to expect when they gathered at the first meeting in Newberry," Mr. Peyton said. "Many of these organizations have different philosophies about wolf management. But the participants came together quite quickly to make recommendations that took all aspects of wolf management into consideration."

Mr. Peyton said the roundtable participants were highly committed to the process and in almost every instance the group came to consensus on its recommendations.

"Overall, I enjoyed working with these dedicated individuals, and I was pleased with the product the roundtable developed," he said.

In December, the final report of the Michigan Wolf Management Roundtable, entitled "Recommended Guiding Principles for Wolf Management in Michigan," was posted on the DNR Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnr. To access the 18-page report, click on "Inside DNR," then "Wolf Management Roundtable." All participating organizations are listed in the report.

A draft of the DNR's revised gray wolf management plan will be made available to the NRC, the public, and agencies for review and comment this spring. The plan will be revised, approved, and published following a 90-day comment period.

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