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New administrative rules adopted regarding wolves and grizzly bears

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Posted at 6:29 PM, Dec 14, 2023

HELENA — The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission has adopted new administrative rules regarding wolves and grizzly bears.

The ARM rules (Administrative Rule of Montana) that deal with gray wolf management and potential grizzly bear management in the state were approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday, December 14th.

“ARM rules are the specifics on how we implement statutes. So, they're the rules that constrain us on how statutes are implemented,” said Administrator for the Communication and Education Division for Montana FWP, Greg Lemon.

The grizzly rules set a foundation for the state to manage the animals should they be delisted from federal protection. This change in the grizzly bear ARM came about because of Senate Bill 295 which was passed during the most recent legislative session.

“Part of that law is that the commission has to set a quota for the number of bears that can be killed annually under that authority,” says Lemon.

Should the bears be delisted, it would allow livestock owners to kill a grizzly bear if that bear is attacking livestock as long as those livestock are where they are legally allowed to be.

The gray wolf ARM changes went into effect immediately, impacting the lethal and non-lethal methods in which the department may interact with gray wolves. This ARM specifically removed reference to the Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

This update to the wolf ARM is occurring at the same time that the department is working on updating their wolf management plan, a plan that has not been updated in 20 years.

“So, the wolf plan, the new wolf plan, isn't final yet. But this ARM rule change had to happen before the wolf plan was final so that when it is final and adopted, that will be in line with the ARM rule,” says Lemon.

Much of the public comment concerning the rules change was criticism of how they believe the state will manage these predators in the future.

Proponents of the state’s decisions on Thursday, such as Jeff Darrah, Executive Director for Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, feel that Montana should have sole control over these predators.

“Thirteen years they've been delisted. So, the other side that you referred to wants to put them back on the list. And we don't want that. Yeah. We think state management of our wildlife is the best way to go, not bureaucrats in Washington DC,” says Darrah.

Opponents of the ARM changes criticized the states harvesting numbers. Jessica Karjala, Executive Director of Footloose Montana told MTN she feels both ARM plans will negatively impact both predators.

“We just really feel like the non-consumptive community is not being heard. As a taxpayer myself, as someone who's grown up in Montana, as someone whose family has been in the area for generations, I find what Fish, Wildlife, Parks and what the executive office are doing right now reprehensible,” says Karjala.