Aug 31

CA: McCain’s VP pick defends right to shoot wolves

McCain’s VP pick defends right to shoot wolves

Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross

We can’t tell you how Republican vice presidential pick Sarah Palin would do on national defense, but when it comes to defending Alaska’s right to shoot wolves, she’s not afraid to pull the trigger.

Just ask Rep. George Miller.

Miller, D-Martinez, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, introduced federal legislation last year to end Alaska’s policy of allowing people to shoot wolves from airplanes – a practice used to keep the number of wolves in check so they don’t eat all the state’s moose and caribou.

Miller – who has strong support from environmental groups around the country – deemed the kills cruel and unnecessary to preserve the moose and caribou population. What’s more, he said, they violate federal law banning airborne hunting.

Faster than you can cry wolf, Palin told the East Bay congressman and his Washington pals to butt out.

“Congressman Miller doesn’t understand rural Alaska (and) doesn’t comprehend wildlife management in the North,” the Alaska governor said in a statement issued last September.

Miller is also clueless to the fact that game hunters rely on the moose and caribou “to put healthy food on their families’ dinner tables,” Palin said.

Miller, however, tells us there are plenty of moose and caribou for native Alaskans to hunt. He says his bill, still waiting to be heard in committee, is really about stopping the state from handing out licenses to sportsmen “in the name of predator control.”

“Shooting wolves from airplanes probably doesn’t look like a good deal to most Americans,” he said.

Wolves aren’t the only item on Palin’s list. She’s also taken on the federal government over polar bears, suing the Interior Department on Alaska’s behalf in reaction to the feds’ decision to list the animals as threatened.

She believes the listing will cripple oil and gas development in sensitive areas – and, in any case, says the enviro argument that global warming threatens to wipe out the polar bears’ habitat is a crock.

In case you were wondering, Miller, who just returned from the Democratic National Convention, doesn’t think much of Palin as a vice presidential candidate.

“I just don’t get it,” he says. “Her incredible lack of experience is serious.”



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Aug 31

Nevada not yet ready to cry wolf

Nevada not yet ready to cry wolf

‘Game’ animal status won’t trigger hunting


CARSON CITY — Wolves may be headed back to Nevada, but don’t grab your hunting rifle.

Although the gray wolf was classified last week by the state as a “game” animal, the Department of Wildlife isn’t planning on a wolf hunting season.

There are good reasons for that.

Wolves historically have been a rarity in Nevada; the last confirmed sighting came in 1941. And the gray wolf remains protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, said Tuesday during a legislative hearing that he has received calls from constituents in Jarbidge who told him they have seen wolves.

Such sightings could not be confirmed.

He fears the wolves will kill cattle and elk, as they have in Idaho.

The wolves in Idaho are descendents of the 66 Canadian gray wolves that were relocated in Yellowstone National Park and national parks in Idaho in 1995-96.

They have multiplied dramatically, and animal scientists estimated that 1,300 gray wolves now live in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Protected by the Endangered Species Act, those wolves have multiplied beyond the hopes of the most ardent wildlife protectionists.

Carpenter isn’t saying who told him they have seen wolves.

Calls to Jarbidge residents and two local businesses could not turn up anyone who has spied one.

An isolated community of about 200, Jarbidge is in a wilderness area in northern Elko County.

The closest known wolves to Nevada in recent years were found near Hammett, Idaho, about 35 miles north of Owyhee, said Kevin Lansford, a wildlife specialist with the Department of Wildlife.

Two were captured there and removed after killing livestock.

“Traveling 40 miles is nothing for a wolf,” Lansford said. “So one may have come down, turned around and went back to Idaho.”

In recent months, sightings of gray wolves were made in Washington and Oregon, states where wolves vanished in the 1930s.

People often mistake wolves for coyotes or dogs such as Alaskan malamutes, Lansford said.

But a male wolf averages around 140 pounds, much more than a malamute, which might reach 95 pounds.

Eric de Place, a researcher for the nonprofit Sightline Institute in Seattle, which has been tracking wolves in the United States, said he suspects they have returned to Nevada.

“I think it is certainly possible,” he said. “We have every reason to believe they have come to Nevada. They are capable of traveling very long distances if there is not that much development.”

Except for Alaska, Michigan’s Isle Royale and northern Minnesota, wolves were considered nearly extinct in the rest of the United States by the 1930s.

Gray wolves then wandered down from Canada and established a small population in Glacier National Park in Montana in the 1980s.

The closest significant population of wolves to Nevada is in Idaho’s Boise and Sawtooth national forests, more than 100 miles north of the Nevada state line.

Despite the lack of evidence that the predators have returned to Nevada, the Legislature’s Subcommittee on Regulations approved a regulation last week that makes the gray or timber wolf a “game” animal, just like deer.

Lansford said his department wanted the new classification in case a lot of wolves do journey into Jarbidge or the Ruby Mountains, the only areas in the state where he believes they could survive.

The regulation will allow the Department of Wildlife to manage a wolf population in the state and control pet wolves, which are popular with some residents.

“We needed to have some plan in place,” Lansford said. “Having it classified as a game animal gives us flexibility. All of this is a plan for the future.”

With the regulation, Lansford said the state also can place minimal requirements on owners of pet wolves.

The Department of Wildlife wants veterinarians to certify pets that resemble wolves truly are wolves and require tattoos to be placed in their ears.

That way, if a pet wolf escapes or is dumped by its owner, animal control officers can determine if it is an actual pet and not a wild animal that wandered into the state.

Lansford said he is not sure how many people have pet wolves, but there are two known wolf breeding businesses in the state, one in Lincoln County, the other in Nye County.

Many companies offer “wolf puppies” for sale on the Internet, but most of these animals are half-wolf, half-dog.

He emphasized that any proposed regulations to control pet wolves would be “vetted” at public hearings at which owners could have their say.

Carpenter opposed the “game” animal designation for the wolf.

He fears “do-gooders” will persuade the Department of Wildlife not to remove or kill wolves that attack livestock.

Carpenter wanted wolves to be given a “predatory” classification so that ranche rs could shoot those that hurt their livestock.

Bob Williams, Nevada field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, emphasized the wolf remains protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Recent moves by his agency to remove the wolf in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from the Endangered Species List were not intended to end wolf protection in the Silver State, he said.

While the symbol of the University of Nevada, Reno athletic teams is the Wolf Pack, Lansford said wolves were rare in Nevada, at least for several hundred years, because of the state’s arid climate.

Even in 1900, he said, there were reports of just 12 wolves in the state.

“I don’t think wolves ever frequented the Mohave Desert,” where Las Vegas lies, Williams added.

“Mexican wolves also live in timber country. They like high elevations, not low arid areas.”

The huge increase in the gray wolf population in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming induced the Fish and Wildlife Service on March 28 to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List in those states.

The states created wolf management plans to allow hunting of wolves beginning this fall outside of designated protection areas.

But Earthjustice, representing 11 wildlife and environment organizations, filed a lawsuit charging that delisting and the states’ management plans would allow hunters to kill 80 percent of the current wolf population.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in July issued an injunction that overturned the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist the gray wolf.

Appeals are expected.

Even if the wolf is delisted, Lansford isn’t convinced it will become a menace to Nevada livestock.

To survive, wolves need high mountain areas covered with timber and a lot of “ungulates,” hoofed animals like elk and deer on which to feed. Nevada’s deer population has dropped to 115,000 about half of the peak in the 1980s.

De Place, however, said research shows that historically wolves did exist throughout the state, even in arid Southern Nevada.

“The number of wolves always was small, hardly like in Yellowstone today,” he said.

De Place said that when wolves cannot find large game, they survive on rats and small animals.


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Aug 31

NV: No wolf hunting season expected in Nevada

No wolf hunting season expected in Nevada

CARSON CITY, Nev., Aug. 31 (UPI) — Wildlife officials in Nevada say despite the recent classification of gray wolves as “game” animals, there shouldn’t be a hunting season for them.

Department of Wildlife specialist Kevin Lansford said while there have been reports of a growing wolf population in the state, a potential wolf hunting season likely won’t come about as the federal Endangered Species Act currently protects all gray wolves, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Sunday.

Lansford said having wolves listed as game animals by the state Legislature’s Subcommittee on Regulations was the department’s attempt at creating a plan to control the wolf population.

“We needed to have some plan in place,” Lansford told the Review-Journal. “Having it classified as a game animal gives us flexibility. All of this is a plan for the future.”

By having the animal classified as a game animal such as deer yet not establishing an official hunting season for the predators, Lansford said wildlife officials hope to be able to protect them while still being legally able to manage their population should the need arise.


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Aug 30

MT: Canine killed is dog-wolf hybrid

Canine killed is dog-wolf hybrid

By Chronicle Staff

Advanced genetic tests have reconfirmed that the black wolf-like animal killed on private land in Eastern Montana last fall was a wolf-dog hybrid, but state wildlife officials still don’t know where the animal came from.

The canine was killed on private land in Bursette, in Garfield County, on Sept. 1, 2007, after at least 12 sheep were killed in the area.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services officials confirmed two of those sheep had been killed by a wolf or a wolf-like canid, but the other carcasses were too old to determine cause of death, according to the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks.

Hoping to determine whether the wolf-like animal was related to the wild Northern Rocky Mountain wolves or was bred in captivity, FWP sent a tissue sample to a University of California at Los Angeles lab.

“Lab techniques have gotten a lot better in the past year and more detailed analyses are possible,” said Carolyn Sime, FWP’s wolf-program coordinator. “This year, the genetic experts were able to confirm from the 2007 sample that the attacking animal was a wolfndog hybrid.

“But we still don’t know where it came from or who the owner might have been,” she said.

Montana law requires any captive animal more than half wolf be permanently tattooed and registered with FWP. State law also requires any escape, release or transfer of ownership of those animals be reported to FWP.

Financial liability for property damage caused by these animals is the responsibility of the owner.

“There were no permanent markings or tattoos on this animal, which are required by law,” FWP Warden Captain Mike Moore, in Miles City, said.

A recent federal court decision reinstated Endangered Species Act protection for wild wolves in the Northern Rockies, which means federal law once again guides Montana’s wolf management.

As a result, the line that once divided Montana’s wolf population as a “non-essential experimental” population in the southern half of the state, and an “endangered” population in the north, has also been reinstated.

Endangered wolves in northern Montana cannot be hazed, harassed or killed by livestock owners or other private citizens.

Experimental wolves in southern Montana can be hazed or harassed, or killed if seen actively chasing, or attacking livestock or domestic dogs on either public or private land. The incident must be reported to FWP within 24 hours.


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Aug 30

MT: Entire wolf pack killed near Hall

Entire wolf pack killed near Hall

By CHELSI MOY of the Missoulian

Federal trappers have killed the entire Willow Creek wolf pack near Hall because of chronic livestock depredations.

The pack included an alpha male wolf, alpha female, a yearling and two wolf pups.

Each year, several wolf packs in Montana are eradicated because of conflicts with livestock, but it’s not a common practice, said Liz Bradley, wolf management specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

A male wolf from Idaho migrated southwest of Hall and established the Willow Creek pack in the summer of 2005. For three years, the pack roamed private property near grazing livestock.

But last year, there were several reports of wolves in the area harassing livestock and one report of an injured calf.

Then in April, wolves killed a calf and a lamb belonging to two different landowners. The pack had grown to 10 adult wolves and three pups at that time.

Given the size of the pack, its proximity to private property and the number of livestock in the area, FWP – the agency charged with wolf conservation and management in Montana on nontribal lands – initially decided the best long-term solution was to reduce the pack by half.

Federal agents killed five of the adult wolves last spring, Bradley said.

During the summer, state wildlife managers stepped up monitoring efforts to reduce future conflicts. In addition, they built visual barriers between livestock and the wolves, and hazed the pack out of calving pastures and off private land.

Ranchers helped by removing livestock carcasses immediately when they died of natural causes, Bradley said.

“Everyone was working together to keep it from happening again,” she said.

Then on Aug. 14, it was confirmed another wolf killed a calf in the area.

This time, wildlife managers decided to take out three of the five remaining adult wolves in an incremental fashion. There had been turnover within the pack during the summer, so biologists thought that eliminating a few more members of the pack would stop the depredations.

Then, on Aug. 23, another calf was killed by a wolf on private land.

At that point, state officials decided to take out of the remainder of the pack, a plan that was executed by federal trappers on Friday.

There’s quite a bit of livestock in western Montana, but it’s not often that packs chronically depredate, Bradley said. Last year, an entire pack was removed in the same area.

Often livestock and wolf conflicts increase in late summer because cattle are grazing across open range and wolf pups are becoming more mobile so there’s more pressure to feed them, Bradley said.


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Aug 29

ID: Idaho officials pushing to manage gray wolves

Idaho officials pushing to manage gray wolves

The Associated Press
Salt Lake Tribune

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – An official with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game says the agency is providing information to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service come up with a plan to give management of wolves back to the state.

Deputy Director Jim Unsworth says the state believes it’s time to remove federal protections for gray wolves in Idaho.

Idaho was managing the wolves until earlier this month when a federal judge signed an order reinstating federal protections for the wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday announced a new plan to end federal protections for gray wolves in Montana and Idaho while leaving them in place in Wyoming.

Unsworth says Idaho’s plan was previously approved and that it likely won’t change significantly.


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Aug 29

MT: 5 wolves killed from pack that killed livestock

5 wolves killed from pack that killed livestock

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) – Federal trappers have killed the remaining five wolves from the Willow Creek pack near Hall, after they made a habit of killing livestock in the area.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks authorized the wolves to be killed on Aug. 23 after USDA Wildlife Services confirmed wolves killed a calf on private land.

Wolves had been killing cattle and sheep in the area since April.

Eight wolves from the pack were killed in April and three more were killed earlier this month.


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Aug 29

Bear bait hunting season set for Wednesday start

Bear bait hunting season set for Wednesday start

The state’s black bear hunting season opens Wednesday.

The Department of Natural Resources issued 4,660 harvest permits this year, an increase of 255 permits from the 2007 hunt.

Most bear hunters use either dogs to chase their quarry or draw bears to a specific location by maintaining bear bait.

Because these two styles of hunting don’t easily co-exist, an annual trade-off was created to alternately favor hound trainers and bait hunters by restricting the first week of the season to one or the other.

This year, hunters using baits go first. Dog hunters begin Sept. 10.

Hunters with dogs should note that 16 hounds have been killed by wolves in northern Wisconsin during the dog training period this year. Hunters with dogs are encouraged to check the list of caution areas for bear dogs on the DNR Web site,

In 2008, a record 86,113 bear applications were received. Of these, 35,895 requested a harvest permit. The remaining 50,218 applied for a preference point, moving them one year closer to the total that will guarantee them a tag.


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Aug 28

OPINION: Pat Durkin column: DNR can’t cower from wolf hunt

Pat Durkin column: DNR can’t cower from wolf hunt

As the Department of Natural Resources writes its theoretical plans for the state’s first regulated hunt for timber wolves, its leaders should trumpet the possibility as a resounding victory for scientific wildlife management and public cooperation.

Instead, the agency couches it as a hunt of last resort. It hopes by removing problem wolves around sheep and cattle farms that we won’t need a wolf season. Little in the wolf’s comeback suggests the DNR will get off so easily.

Wisconsin figured wolves were gone for good 35 years ago. But as they trickled back in from northeastern Minnesota and received full protection as an endangered species, they re-established residency.

Still, by the mid-1980s, the DNR’s best minds figured it unlikely our Northern forests could hold more than 100 wolves. They supposedly couldn’t live near humans, and mange threatened to remove the pioneering population that returned.

History shows wolves were just warming up. Their numbers hit 100 in 1996 and surpassed 200 three years later. By 1999, the DNR revised the population goal to 350, but wolves exceeded expectations and doubled again, surpassing 400 by 2004-05.

Surveys last winter put the estimate at 550, 200 more than the goal and 5½ times as many as biologists expected in 1985.

This tremendous comeback isn’t welcome everywhere, especially where people have wolves for neighbors. Sheep, cows, calves, hounds, dogs, cats and the occasional horse, chicken and captive deer have become wolf food. Since the state began compensating people for losses in 1985, it has paid more than $653,000 in claims.

With wolf numbers still climbing, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency last year returned management duties to the DNR. For all its talk of wanting responsibility, the DNR couldn’t be much more timid in planning a public hunt. It also frets that if it makes its theoretical wolf season a reality, wolf worshipers will sue.

Is this a professional wildlife agency or a 98-pound weakling? If this were a Godfather movie, Don Vito Corleone would grab the DNR, smack its face and tell it to show pride in the profession. Weakness invites legal bullying from those who think no wolf should die at man’s hands.

The DNR should remind everyone the wolf’s comeback proves the power of our North American model of wildlife management. That is, fish and wildlife are public property, held in trust and managed by states for the public good.

This system restored Wisconsin’s wolves to the point of surplus. They’re living among humans as they realize the risks are minimal. As a result, conflicts likely will increase as their numbers climb.

We do them no favor by declaring them too good for public hunting. The French have a saying that if you want a beautiful park, you need a heart of stone and a sharp ax. That applies to wildlife, too. And DNR biologists have the skill, training and history to do the job.

But do they have the will? Since adopting North America’s wildlife-management doctrines in the 1900s, Wisconsin has regulated hunts for everything from rabbits to whitetails to ruffed grouse. This also includes foxes, coyotes, bobcats and black bears. All are as worthy of care and conservation as wolves, and all benefit from enlightened management.

The DNR should use the wolf’s recovery to remind everyone that hunters and license fees deserve much credit for these successes. When the DNR acts as if public hunting is a last resort, it looks ashamed of hunters, as if we want to punish or wipe out wolves. If that were our motive, why haven’t we inflicted such evil on deer, bears, geese, turkeys and other surplus wildlife?

Restoring wolves was the easy part, but the hero’s role is over. The work now begins, and the DNR must show it’s up to the task. No wildlife agency charged with public trust should turn to its staff and hired contractors to treat wolves as stray dogs or common pests.

Wolves aren’t rats, and the DNR isn’t Orkin.


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Aug 28

MT: COLUMN-OPINION: This Wolf Plan Would Work

This Wolf Plan Would Work

Anybody who follows the endlessly volatile wolf issue – and it’s hard not to follow it with all the news coverage – knows the greens won a big victory last month. Judge Donald Molloy of the U.S. District Court sided with Earthjustice and 12 conservation organizations and essentially relisted, albeit temporarily, the wolf as an endangered species.

So, what now?

We must keep in mind that Molloy’s ruling doesn’t overturn the proposed rule to delist the wolf. Instead, it says the wolf is endangered while the courts decide if it is or not. If agencies prevail in the main case, Molloy’s ruling would merely go down as an aggravating delay for agencies in implementing hunting seasons and state management.

This leaves agencies with three choices:

• Appeal Molloy’s decision to relist the wolf in addition to continuing to fight the primary legal battle over delisting.

• Ignore Molloy’s ruling and concentrate on trying to win the delisting case, forgetting about wolf hunting seasons for this year and perhaps next year, too.

• Suck it up, meet with the greens, and have a little “out-of-court settlement” to resolve the wolf issue right now.

I asked both Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the federal agency in charge of endangered species programs, and Chris Smith, chief of staff, for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, what their agencies plan to do. Both dodged that question but didn’t rule out any of the three options.

I called Suzanne Asha Stone, northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, and Doug Honnold, managing attorney for Earthjustice, self-acclaimed as “the nation’s leading environmental law firm,” which is handling the case for the 12 conservation groups, to ask them what the agencies would have to do for them to accept delisting and withdraw the lawsuit. Keeping in mind that Stone only speaks for her organization, not the other groups, and that Honnold can only speculate on what his clients might decide, both gave me the same answer.

The two major sticking points are lack of what’s called “genetic connectivity” and Wyoming’s totally unacceptable wolf control plan. Neither Stone or Honnold would guarantee that fixing these two problems would make wolf delisting litigation-proof, but I strongly suspect resolving them would keep us out of court.

The first point, Wyoming’s dual-status plan that declares the wolf a “predator” (Wyomingish for vermin) in 90 percent of the state so, as Honnold says, “it can be killed by anybody anywhere” needs to go away. Radical pro-wolfers are probably loving Wyoming right now because if the state doesn’t give up on dual status, it may hold up delisting for decades allowing the wolf to reclaim its entire former range throughout the western United States. Already, we have indications of wolf packs forming in Washington and Oregon. Soon, Colorado greens will have their dream come true, wolves in Rocky Mountain National Park to control elk numbers. All thanks to Wyoming.

“It’s going to take the other two states (Idaho and Montana) and other interested parties to push Wyoming to develop a safety net instead of a free-firing zone,” Honnold speculates. Even though the FWS had earlier rejected Wyoming’s plan, “when (former Idaho Governor Dirk) Kempthorne came into office (as Secretary of the Interior), the Wyoming plan that had been unacceptable became magically acceptable.”

And, of course, it gave Judge Molloy another good reason to enjoin delisting, giving Wyoming exactly what it did not want–more wolves and more federal control. Altogether now, can we all say “self-defeating insanity”?

Wyoming has to be a team player and along with the other states give in to the greens, regardless of how much it hurts. Those bruised egos eventually heal.

Addressing the second point, genetic exchange, also seems easy enough. By definition “genetic exchange” means wolves moving back and forth between the three recovery zones (Yellowstone, central Idaho and northwestern Montana) without being whacked. Even though the Yellowstone wolves have prospered, they have done it in genetic isolation.

Like it or not, it’s a numbers game. As I write this commentary, we have somewhere between 1,500 and 2,200 wolves running around the northern Rockies, but not many of them making it from one recovery zone to the other without being “controlled.”

Collectively, the three state management plans call for killing down the population to about 1,100 wolves. Based on the science he has read, only having 1,100 wolves minimizes the chance of genetic exchange, says Honnold, and Judge Molloy agreed with him and his clients.

“At a population level of 2,000 wolves, we are likely to have genetic exchange if we can maintain it for two years or more,” Honnold says.

So now, I’m scratching my head. How hard can this be?

We have roughly 2,000 wolves, a tolerable but probably not ideal level for agencies or the livestock industry. I say go with the status quo and move on. It sure trumps any alternative we currently face, such as years of expensive litigation while wolves continue breeding and the real possibility of the greens prevailing in court and keeping the wolf an endangered species for a long time.

And, please, let’s not do the is-there-a-number-between-1,100-and-2,000-that-might-work approach. The greens have an ace in the hole, and Molloy flopped another ace for them, so right now, they have the winning hand. Let’s fold.

“We need to bring the stakeholders to the table and develop an acceptable plan,” Stone proposes. “Montana did a great job in their plan in bringing all the stakeholders together, but this needs to be a region-wide effort.”

But Bangs has little optimism of any such agreement. “Wolf management has nothing to do with reality. A rational person could sit down and figure this out in a minute. If this were any other animal, this would already be a done deal, but people aren’t rational about wolves.”

“It’s a mess,” he admits. “And it’s getting expensive.”

Is anybody in Wyoming listening?

Bangs also accused me of being “too rational” (which hasn’t happened too often) in suggesting agencies and greens could settle. Nonetheless, I persist in believing we could resolve the wolf issue by the end of next week.


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