Wolves Joining Agenda for Regional Wildlife Council Meetings
BY BRENT ISRAELSEN
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
Utah wildlife officials plan to begin educating the public on wolf issues at five meetings in February around the state.
None of the meetings, however, will be held in Salt Lake City.
The nearest meeting to the capital city is set for Springville, a two-hour drive during rush-hour traffic.
Division of Wildlife Resources spokesman Mark Hadley said there is no intent to snub Utah’s population center.
The wolf issue, he said, was added at the last minute to the agendas of meetings already scheduled by the Utah Wildlife Board’s five Regional Advisory Councils (RACs).
“[The meetings] weren’t called specifically to discuss wolves, but because of the public’s interest in wolves right now, we thought a discussion about wolves would be a great item to add,” said Hadley.
As the state gets closer to developing a wolf management plan, Hadley said, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a future meeting in Salt Lake City.”
Environmentalists say they do not care where the RACs hold their meetings. Comprised mainly of ranching and hunting interests, the RACs are a “futile process for public input,” says Allison Jones, a biologist for the Utah Wolf Forum.
“We’ve tried to work with the RACs for years and years. It doesn’t get you anywhere,” Jones said.
The wolf forum is urging the state to establish a more independent process for educating the public and soliciting input on wolf issues.
Interest in wolf issues has accelerated since Nov. 30, when a wolf from Yellowstone National Park was accidentally captured near Morgan. It was the first confirmed wolf in Utah since the government exterminated the creature 70 years ago to benefit ranchers and hunters. Biologists believe wolves will continue to try to recolonize Utah.
Following a successful wolf recovery effort in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to remove the wolf from the endangered species list, a move that will put wolf management in the hands of the states.
To prepare for that day, the DWR believes now is the time to give the public an opportunity to learn more about “these fascinating animals,” Hadley said.
The RAC meetings, which will feature a presentation by a DWR expert followed by a question-and-answer session, are scheduled as follows:
* Feb. 18, John Wesley Powell Museum, Green River, 6:30 p.m.
* Feb. 19, Beaver High School, Beaver, 7 p.m.
* Feb. 24, Vernal City offices, Vernal, 7 p.m.
* Feb. 25, Springville Junior High School, Springville, 6:30 p.m.
* Feb. 26, Bridgerland Applied Technology Center, Brigham City, 6 p.m.