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Public speaks out against Gallatin Co. predator policy

Published On: Oct 09 2012 06:16:18 PM MDT   Updated On: Oct 10 2012 09:23:14 AM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

The public has a chance to weigh in on Gallatin County's proposed predator policy.

Over the summer, commissioners collected feedback from folks around the county and last month released a report saying just how they think predators like wolves, bears and mountain lions should be managed.

Commissioners want to recognize the minimum of 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs set by the state, but say they are not willing to see minimum numbers significantly higher than that.

They support policies that restore populations of game animals like elk and mule deer, and support the delisting of grizzly bears around Yellowstone National Park.

Gallatin County Commissioner Joe Skinner, the man who drafted the policy, says it's intended to do one thing.

"To start establishing in our county baselines and so we can start looking at trends, what's happening with different populations in our county, different trends in our economy," he said at Tuesday's meeting.

Montana law says Fish, Wildlife and Parks must consult with county commissioners when forming a predator policy. But some concerned citizens say FWP should get time to see if their policy works before the county weighs in.

"This will only be the second hunting season after the reintroduction of wolves and I believe that it's been a long time since we've had them and we need to take the time to let things balance out, let FWP do what it's supposed to," said Eliza Prescott during the comment period.

Everyone who spoke during the public comment period came out against the proposed policy.

"I think the resolution as written is fairly inflammatory and unprofessional and I think it promotes conflict within the county, it uses language that pokes a thumb at people who care about wildlife and care about science," Mike Leahy the Regional Director for Defenders of Wildlife said.

But Commissioner Skinner says it all depends on what type of predator management you want for the county.

"Using science-based management is different, it depends on what you're managing for. And I think that's the key to a lot of this, what are we managing for? If we're managing for Yellowstone Park all over Montana, you're going to manage differently then if you're managing for a sustainable hunting opportunity," Skinner said.

One commissioner has come out against the plan.

"This thing is fatally flawed as far as I'm concerned, it's very biased against predators, it doesn't address a lot of the things that these folks have already talked about," Commissioner Bill Murdock said.

Skinner concluded Tuesday's meeting by discussing how important transparency and public outreach has been throughout this process. The commission is still accepting public comment and will come to a final decision on this policy on October 23rd.