Sep 14, 2012 12:03 AM by KBZK Media Center
Gallatin County commissioners have released a draft policy that highlights the local impacts of large predators on big game and livestock. The goal of the policy is to better coordinate with state and federal agencies on local issues.
Commissioners say the focal point of the policy is to minimize the impact predators are having on elk and moose populations. Other goals of the resolution include public safety and livestock loss prevention but impacts to big game species is a top priority.
"We would probably focus on is making sure that the game species is at a population that gives a good population for hunting," said Gallatin County Commissioner Joe Skinner.
Currently, officials report that large predators such as grizzlies, wolves and mountain lions are on the rise. Experts estimate there are over 1000 wolves in the state. The resolution supports the de-listing of grizzlies as well as wolf hunting as part of a management strategy.
Some experts believe the county should take a step back. Mike Leahy of Defenders of Wildlife says there have been no confirmed cases of livestock killed by large game this year. Leahy also believes if left to their own devices, predator and prey will balance each other out.
"You have the Gallatin County saying they're gonna prioritize one species over others and so they're getting into micro-managing predator and prey relationships and those are better left alone. Predator and prey will figure out some sort of balance between the two and we already have one government agency that's responsible for managing wildlife, that's Fish Wildlife and Parks and so now we have another layer of bureaucracy, the Gallatin County Commission getting involved in predator management and I think it's a waste of resources," said Leahy.
Skinner says the commission offers a valuable perspective.
"What the commissioners can do is let the department know how their decisions are affecting us locally. It looks more statewide at things and I think this will really help us to advocate for what's happening locally here," said Skinner.
Skinner says the county recognizes the importance of large predators to our ecosystem but says they must be managed to preserve the safety of the public and to preserve citizens opportunities to hunt large game species.
The Gallatin Board of County Commissioners will continue to consult with state agencies as well as other counties to regarding large predator management. They have set a deadline for written comment of Sept. 23. Commissioners will hold a public hearing Oct. 9 and expect to approve the policy by the end of October.