LANSING - On Friday, Jan. 27, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially removed wolves in Michigan from the federal endangered species list. This decision returns management authority over wolves to the state Department of Natural Resources.
This is a long-sought victory for our state, and especially for Upper Peninsula residents. Thank you for your patience as we fought to return management of Michigan wolves to Michigan control - which is as it should be.
For more than 15 years, wolves in Michigan have far exceeded the federal government's recovery goal - 100 animals combined in Michigan and Wisconsin, sustained over five years. The federal government's recent decision to remove wolves from the endangered species list marks the third time in the last five years that the USFWS has made such an attempt. The last two times, delisting was halted by lawsuits from various interest groups.
Attempts to manage the wolf population through court battles, rather than through sound scientific management, have eroded public support for the Endangered Species Act and for wolves in Michigan. This has frustrated many residents in the state, especially those in the Upper Peninsula. I certainly understand that frustration, and I share it.
Now that wolves are off the endangered species list, we can fully implement the state's highly regarded Wolf Management Plan, which was devised by a broad range of interested parties over the course of several years and approved in 2008.
The management plan sets out guidelines for maintaining a self-sustaining wolf population while improving social acceptance of the species by preventing and minimizing negative impacts. You can read the plan and find other useful information about wolves in Michigan on our website at www.michigan.gov/wolves.
The state's Wolf Management Plan does not call for a reduction of the wolf population or set a population cap. Instead, the plan focuses on managing the impact of wolves in the areas where they live through the use of both nonlethal and lethal control methods. Where we see problems, we now have greater power to address them. That change, in and of itself, should go a long way to resolving many of the negative interactions that have been reported by livestock and dog owners in recent years.
In addition to the more flexible management tools available to the DNR, two state laws went into effect Jan. 27 that allow residents to use lethal control on wolves that are in the act of attempting to kill or injure livestock or dogs. Requirements and guidelines for those who kill a wolf to stop an attack on their livestock or dog can be found on our website at www.michigan.gov/wolves or at any DNR office.
Wolves remain a protected, nongame species under Michigan law. It is illegal to kill a wolf that is not in the act of preying upon livestock or a dog, or to kill a wolf that does not pose a threat to human safety. The DNR's Law Enforcement Division will continue to investigate and prosecute wolf poaching cases. Illegally killing a wolf is a serious offense, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both, plus the cost of prosecution. The department is available for consultation with anyone who has concerns or who is having problems with wolves.
Going forward, we intend to work closely with Upper Peninsula residents to help you protect your private property, while also protecting our recovered wolf population. This is the best way to ensure that wolves remain off the endangered species list for good.
We appreciate your ongoing cooperation in helping us meet this important natural resources goal for Michigan.
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Rodney Stokes is the director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources