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Update: Utah anti-wolf bill continues to move forward

[large thumbnail url=”update-utah-anti-wolf-bill-continues-to-move-forward” filename=”news” year=”2010″ month=”02″ day=”10″] [thumbnail icon url=”update-utah-anti-wolf-bill-continues-to-move-forward” filename=”news” year=”2010″ month=”02″ day=”10″] Christensen’s bill, SB 36, continues to move forward and the future for wolves in Utah looks more bleak.

Senate Bill 36, sponsored by state senator Allen Christensen, will make wolves unwelcome in any form within the borders of Utah. It would require federal government agencies to remove any wolf found in Utah within an area of the state where the Endangered Species Act is in effect. Wolves would be open season anywhere they are not protected. The bill also requires state agencies to prevent the establishment of any packs regardless of location. The bill also re-asserts the state’s position that wolves should be removed from the Endangered Species List within the state and control of wolves be turned over to state agencies.

The new bill would also replace the wolf management plan approved by Utah in 2005.1

While the plan was not necessarily everything wolf advocates were hoping for, it is a signficant improvement over what Sen. Christensen is proposing.

That same plan also highlighted research in to the opinions of Utahns as it relates to wolves returning to the state.2 The research shows that the state is pretty close to 50/50 in terms of allowing wolves to return to the state. The interpretations of some of the results seem inconsistent with the numbers they report, but at worst it is fair to assume that Utah residents as a whole are somewhat moderate in their opinions towards wolves – a position the new bill definitely doesn’t represent. It seems unlikely this bill was introduced and is being supported to satisfy the needs of constituents – who seem to be in favor of well managed wolf populations existing in Utah.

Hunters are definitely the most opposed to wolves and even they are listed as being over 40 percent in favor of wolves being in Utah.

Progression of SB 36 (s1)

 Date  Actions
1/26/10  Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee passed the bill in a 4-2-0 vote. Senators Gene Davis (D-Salt Lake City) and Karen Morgan (D-Sandy) voted “no.”
1/29/10  Bill is circled, putting it temporarily on hold. The reason for the hold is unclear.
2/1/10  The bill is uncircled and passes the senate’s second reading along party lines.
2/2/10  The bill passes the third reading and clears the Senate and moves into House Rules Commitee. It gets assigned to the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.
2/8/10  Bill received unanimous (13-0) recommendation to proceed from the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.
2/9/10   The bill is up for a House vote and will be voted on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

The bill continues to move forward quickly, and many groups are mobilizing against the legislation.

The major justification for this bill is that as predators, wolves will damage Utah’s wildlife and ungulate population. This is a false assumption. The populations of the ungulates in the Rocky Mountain regions which were used for the wolf reintroduction have seen increases (Elk have seen surging population with increases of more than 60% in Montana over the last few decades – with more than half of those years involving wolves 3).

References

1) Utah’s 2005 Wolf Management Plan (PDF)

2) Summary of Utahns’ attitudes towards wolves (2005) 

Response Item Urban Rural (north) Rural (south) Big game Hunters
What best describes your attitude towards wolves? (% “like”) 61.5 47.3 39.7 43.0
Wolves are a necessary component of a healthy ecosystem (% “agree”) 71.2 52.8 51.5 39.9
Wolves kill and therefore pose a threat to livestock and big game (% “agree”) 24.4 41.6 44.4 55.2
Wolf numbers should be kept low to minimize their impacts on human activities. (% “agree”) 49.0 59.6 60.7 74.5
Utah is better off without wolves. (% “agree”) 20.5 37.4 33.6 43.5
It is wrong to hunt and trap wolves for furs and trophies even where they’re common (% “agree”) 47.5 33.8 36.0 23.9
I would like to see wolves in Utah (% “agree”) 56.9 41.5 42.3 40.2

Table 4.1. Summary of Utahns’ attitudes towards wolves.
Wolf Management Plan – Utah – 2005


3) http://www.rmef.org/NewsandMedia/NewsReleases/2009/ElkPopulations.htm

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