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MN Senate: Wolf Data Bill hearing, Environment and Energy, 3/11/2014

posted Mar 30, 2014, 12:43 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Feb 19, 2015, 10:42 AM ]

Minnesota Senate Hearing of SF 2256: "Wolf management provisions modifications."

The meeting begins with about 25 minutes of testimony and 21 minutes of discussion. A vote is taken with 6 in support vs. 6 opposed--with two committee members unavailable to vote. The committee moves on to other bills, and returns to reconsider SF 2256 later when the two unavailable members are able to return. The bill is then passed with 8 in support vs. 6 opposed.

This is a partial transcript of the audio recording by MN Senate Audio Services: http://www.leg.state.mn.us/senatemedia/saudio/2014/cmte_envenergy_031114.MP3

Keywords: minnesota, politics, wildlife, wolves, wolf, management, plan, livestock, depredation, control, education, tolerance, coexistence, environment, nature, sanctuary, hunting, trapping, public, taking, season, small-game, big-game, non-game

== Chair, Members, and guests of the committee ==

Committee members:

Senator John Marty (66, DFL)
Senator John A. Hoffman (36, DFL)
Senator David M. Brown (15, R)
Senator Michelle R. Benson (31, R)
Senator D. Scott Dibble (61, DFL)
Senator Chris A. Eaton (40, DFL)
Senator Foung Hawj (67, DFL)
Senator Lyle Koenen (17, DFL)
Senator David J. Osmek (33, R)
Senator Julie A. Rosen (23, R)
Senator Bev Scalze (42, DFL)
Senator Matt Schmit (21, DFL)
Senator Katie Sieben (54, DFL)
Senator Bill Weber (22, R)

Testifying in support of SF 2256:

MN Senator Foung Hawj (67, DFL). The senator's surname (Hawj) is pronounced "Hurr."
Timmothy Kaminski, Mountain Livestock Cooperative.
Maureen Hackett, Howling for Wolves.
Sandy Skinaway, Minnesota Sandy Lake Band of Ojibwe.

Testifying in opposition to SF 2256:

Thom Petersen, MN Farmers Union.
Corey Bennett, MN Deer Hunters Association (MDHA).
Doug Busselman, MN Farm Bureau.
Tim Spreck, MN Outdoor Heritage Alliance (MOHA).
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR):
Bob Meier, MN DNR Director of Policy and Government Affairs.
Dan Stark, MN DNR Large Carnivore Specialist.


== Summary of the bill ==

SF 2256: "Wolf management provisions modifications."

The bill addresses the following points of the 2001 MN Wolf Management Plan.

* Improved: Annual wolf census.
* Enforced: Education to reduce wolf/human conflicts.
* Added:    Advisory Council to review and evaluate progress on the Plan.
* Added:    Recognition of Tribal wolf sanctuaries (definition needed for the term "federally recognized tribal lands").
* Added:    No baiting within ten-mile buffer zone around a Tribal wolf sanctuary.
* Enforced: No public taking until it is confirmed according to the plan that public taking is appropriate.
* Added:    Comprehensive data collection on wolf illness and mortality.
* Enforced: Polling of public opinion regarding wolves [before and after education to reduce wolf/human conflicts].
* Enforced: Livestock best management practices (BMPs).
* Added:    Comprehensive map of wolf/human conflicts.
* Improved: Annual wolf census in the agricultural zone (zone B).

Most of these points are already addressed in the MN Wolf Management Plan, but have not been implemented. The bill would therefore require and monitor their implementation. The wolf population census would be improved, and new Plan features would be added.


== Bookmarks in this video ==

00:32 Sen Foung Hawj introduces the bill, SF 2256, to protect "One of our state assets: the gray wolf."

03:19 Timmothy Kaminski, Mountain Livestock Cooperative, supports the bill. He began his career as a field biologist in 1978 in MN with Dr. Mech. During his fifteen years as the Idaho Wolf Project leader, he became concerned that wolf management was not sufficiently addressing wolf/livestock conflicts. In 2001 he founded the Mountain Livestock Cooperative "to conserve working ranches and large carnivores in the mountain west." In the last two years, he and forty working ranchers in Southern Alberta have been working to proactively reduce wolf/livestock conflicts around their ranches. Their combination of lethal and non-lethal depredation-control techniques has proven to be economical for them, and socially acceptable to those who wish to protect wolves.

14:13 Maureen Hackett, Howling for Wolves, supports the bill. It calls for the full implementation of the MN Wolf Management Plan, including the development of livestock BMPs and the systematic collection and interpretation of wolf-location information. The temporary suspension of public taking is necessary in order to provide a stable environment for the research. Without a stable social order (wolves in packs and packs in territories), the uncontrolled effects of public taking would confound the results of the research, eliminate research subjects, and possibly interfere with the development and/or success of non-lethal depredation controls. The suspension of public taking is further supported by public-opinion polls that show that most Minnesotans oppose the wolf hunting and trapping seasons--especially the indiscriminate methods of trapping and snaring--and that 79% of public input to the MN DNR was opposed to the hunting and trapping seasons. The public is aware that the hunting and trapping seasons are 1) not necessary for depredation control, 2) not likely to be effective in depredation control, and 3) might actually increase wolf/human conflicts by disrupting the stability of non-problematic wolf packs.

17:05 Sandy Skinaway, Minnesota's Sandy Lake Band of Ojibwe, supports the bill. The Anishinabe people have a spiritual connection with the wolf. History has supported the people's belief that the fate of the people is tied to the fate of the wolf. The wolf hunt is based on misinformation about the wolf and its conflicts with people, even on hatred toward the wolf. The Anishinabe people believe that the wolf is a sentient being, a relative, with a purpose in our shared environment. They believe the people have a responsibility to take care of the environment, and that, in turn, they depend upon the environment. Respect and coexistence are needed.

19:48 Thom Petersen, MN Farmers Union, opposes the bill. Members support how the MN DNR has been handling wolf management, including the hunting and trapping seasons. The wolf population is healthy enough to sustain a harvest. In the MN Senate's non-scientific poll at the State Fair, although only 13% of the respondents were rural, 42% supported the hunting and trapping seasons. Members are concerned about how the additional wolf research that's called for in this bill would be paid for. They're satisfied with the data collection that the MN DNR is already doing. They depend upon that information from the MN DNR to help manage livestock losses.

22:09 Corey Bennett, MN Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), opposes the bill, having discussed it with Sen. Hawj and with members. At the recent MDHA annual meeting in Grand Rapids, MN, delegates were unanimous in favor of the MN Wolf Management Plan including the public taking of wolves. It's a good plan, managed by the MN DNR, with the approval of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Dr. Mech.

24:16 Doug Busselman, MN Farm Bureau, opposes [at least part of] the bill. The studies and programs that are called for in the bill can be done without suspending the wolf hunt. The hunt has been implemented by the MN DNR in a conscientious manner. The MN Farm Bureau opposes the suspension of the wolf hunt, and therefore opposes the bill.

25:02 Tim Spreck, MN Outdoor Heritage Alliance (speaking also for Gary Leistico and the Minnesota Trappers Association), opposes the bill. The MN DNR has done an excellent job of administering the hunt. The bill would only put up unnecessary roadblocks to the work of the MN DNR.

26:23 Bob Meier, MN DNR, opposes the bill. Everything in the Plan is being covered. Tribal entities already have the authority to close their own private property on Indian Reservations to wolf hunting and trapping. The Red Lake Reservation is already closed. Current law, however, does not recognize tribal wolf sanctuaries on all lands within reservation boundaries. A ten-mile buffer zone around all tribal lands would cover 9.6 million acres of non-tribal lands (private property and state or county property). The fiscal note for the bill is $1.8 million, including advisory-council expenses and database development and data collection of wolf/human conflicts, wolf illness and mortality.

28:18 Dan Stark, MN DNR, opposes the bill. The MN DNR is addressing wolf/human conflicts according to the Plan. The wolf hunting and trapping seasons were developed based on expert information. "Minnesota has more data on the wolf population than for most other managed species in the state, and it is one of the most highly-studied animals in the state of Minnesota." The first two wolf-hunting and trapping seasons were conservative, and not intended to lower the wolf population or address wolf depredation or wolf/human conflicts. They pose no long-term threat to the survival of the wolf population. DNR plans to update the Plan this year, incorporating stakeholder and public input.

29:47 Committee discussion. More of this discussion will be transcribed at a later date...

29:47 Sen. Scalze... asks about the motivations for the wolf hunt... Dan Stark responds that the hunt is part of the MN Wolf Management Plan, and recounts the legislative actions that called for the hunt to begin in 2012.

32:00 Sen. Rosen... asks about the MN Wolf Management Plan and its provisions for stakeholder and public input. She encourages stakeholder and public input (whatever the disposition of this bill SF 2256)...

37:51 Sen. Dibble... clarifies questions and answers about the wolf hunt...

38:41 Sen. Brown... asks that discussions of tolerance be two-sided... Apparently to respect the opinions of those who don't feel that it's necessary to coexist with wolves at the level that's proposed in this bill.

42:51 Sen. Eaton... asks about the wolf hunt...

46:18 Sen. Osmek moves the vote, and Sen. Brown requests a roll call.

47:09 Roll call:

Yes: Senator John Marty (66, DFL)
Yes: Senator John A. Hoffman (36, DFL)
No:  Senator David M. Brown (15, R)
No:  Senator Michelle R. Benson (31, R)
Yes: Senator D. Scott Dibble (61, DFL)
Yes: Senator Chris A. Eaton (40, DFL)
Yes: Senator Foung Hawj (67, DFL)
No:  Senator Lyle Koenen (17, DFL)
No:  Senator David J. Osmek (33, R)
No:  Senator Julie A. Rosen (23, R)
Yes: Senator Bev Scalze (42, DFL)
n/a: Senator Matt Schmit (21, DFL)
n/a: Senator Katie Sieben (54, DFL)
No:  Senator Bill Weber (22, R)

Result: 6-yes, 6-no--the bill does not pass.

Senators Sieben and Schmit have requested to vote on the bill, but have not been able to "check in." The vote is therefore closed and the bill does not pass. The committee discusses parliamentary procedure.

[The audio recording is clipped at this point. It resumes later at the edited time mark of 49:26 (elapsed time of about 1:05:00), following committee action on other bills.]

49:26 Sen. Eaton moves to reconsider the bill; that is to vote on it again, to include Senators Sieben and Schmit. The committee discusses parliamentary procedure.

51:51 Sen. Sieben returns to the committee from the Education Policy Committee where she had been presenting another bill. The committee discusses parliamentary procedure.

56:10 Roll call:

Yes: Senator John Marty (66, DFL)
Yes: Senator John A. Hoffman (36, DFL)
No:  Senator David M. Brown (15, R)
No:  Senator Michelle R. Benson (31, R)
Yes: Senator D. Scott Dibble (61, DFL)
Yes: Senator Chris A. Eaton (40, DFL)
Yes: Senator Foung Hawj (67, DFL)
No:  Senator Lyle Koenen (17, DFL)
No:  Senator David J. Osmek (33, R)
No:  Senator Julie A. Rosen (23, R)
Yes: Senator Bev Scalze (42, DFL)
Yes: Senator Matt Schmit (21, DFL)
Yes: Senator Katie Sieben (54, DFL)
No:  Senator Bill Weber (22, R)

Result: 8-yes, 6-no--the bill passes and is referred to the Committee on State & Local Government.

56:41 The end.


Bob Meier, MN DNR Policy and Government Relations Director
Bob Meier, MN DNR Policy and Government Relations Director