Helena, MT – Today, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill joined sportsmen, landowners, ranchers, legislators and other stakeholders to discuss his plan for the management of Montana’s wolf population.
“Right now we are at a tipping point with wolves, the point where we won’t be able to manage the population any more because there are too many of them. The number of wolves in Montana continues to grow and the population is spreading,” said Hill.
According to the mandates of the wolf de-listing from the Endangered Species Act, Montana needs to maintain 150 wolves, including ten breeding pairs. Today the minimum wolf count is 650, but most experts acknowledge the actual number is likely 10-30% higher than that, with 715-845 wolves in Montana. With birth litters on the horizon, the number of wolves could reach 1000. Some fish and game experts worry that if wolf numbers continue to expand it will be difficult for conventional management tactics to bring the numbers back to manageable levels—and that could have a catastrophic impact on Montana’s elk and other big game herds, and increase pressure on livestock producers.
“Our current control methods are not adequate. If we don’t approach this problem head on—our ranchers, landowners, and sportsmen will be negatively impacted. If we don’t act now it will be too late.”
“I believe FWP needs an aggressive series of steps immediately to control the wolf populations. It’s critical that we make an immediate and dramatic reduction in wolf numbers,” said Hill.
Hill’s plan includes splitting the state into two separate zones for wolf management: a Wolf Aggressive Management Zone, to control the population in Western Montana, and a Wolf No Tolerance Zone that does not permit wolves to spread to Central or Eastern Montana.
“We will work with the experts and the counties to establish the line for the no tolerance zone. No wolves will be allowed east of that line. When they cross that line they will be considered predators, and any person with a gun can legally shoot them at any time of day, on any day of the year.”
Hill’s proposal also includes: a lengthening of the wolf-hunting season, the use of trapping, the ability for hunters to shoot more than one wolf, and more aggressive pack removal from livestock depredations.
“We will immediately introduce these changes upon being sworn in as Governor. Working with a new Fish and Wildlife Commission, I will make it a priority for the legislature to pass any needed statutory changes within the first two weeks of the 2013 session so we can immediately cut down the predator numbers.”
In addition, Hill pledged a change in the culture and leadership at the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
“Restoring the trust and cooperation between sportsmen and landowners will be the top priority of the new leadership at FWP. It’s time we start listening and partnering with landowners, counties and sportsmen and women to address their concerns and needs,” said Hill.
**SEE ATTACHMENT FOR ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND**
About Rick Hill: Rick’s career has spanned from business to public service. Rick has run businesses, helped others get their businesses started, and served as Montana’s Representative in Congress. During his time in Congress, Rick was recognized for his work in defense of free enterprise and personal liberty and his commitment to fighting federal over-reach and budget deficits. Rick has been married to Betti for 28 years; they have three grown sons and seven grandchildren. Rick announced his bid for governor in November of 2010.
About Jon Sonju: From working in his dad’s body shop growing-up, to helping expand his family’s Kalispell based manufacturing business, Sonju Industrial, Jon understands the challenges business owners face. Elected to the Montana Legislature in 2004, he has served in both the State House and the State Senate. During his time in the legislature he has been a consistent advocate for economic opportunity, smaller government, and the protection of our personal freedoms. Jon was born and raised in the Flathead Valley where he still resides today. He and his wife Tania have two young children, Jacob (6) and Brett (3).