Balyeat bill would cap wolves in state

 

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HELENA – No one was complimenting the gray wolf during a hearing on Sen. Joe Balyeat’s bill that would have the state unilaterally take control of the animal, but there was disagreement all the same over the proposal that would cap the wolf population in Montana.

Senate Bill 183 would enact a wolf plan that does not allow more than 225 wolves in the state and would have the animal managed in a way that ensured it was not affecting big game hunting or the livestock industry. The bill would void any element of federal control of the gray wolf, including enforcement of the Endangered Species Act.

“I acknowledge it’s strong medicine, but I believe we need strong medicine to deal with this wolf crisis,” Balyeat, R-Belgrade, told the committee.

However, the ambitious plan would undoubtedly require a lawsuit with the federal government, and the state estimates that defending the law would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If the wolf is taken off the endangered species list, as the Obama administration aims to do, the bill won’t be necessary, Balyeat told the committee. But in case a court stymies the effort, the bill gives Montana a tool to still take control of managing the wolf, he said.

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