Peterson, Stauber introduce wolf bill

Two Minnesota congressmen have introduced bipartisan legislation to return management of gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan back to the states.

Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Pete Stauber, R-Minn., introduced the Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2019 on Thursday, Sept. 26.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December 2011 issued a final rule to delist Western Great Lakes wolves from federal protection and return management to the states. That decision was reversed in 2014, after two federal court decisions restored federal protection for Western Great Lakes wolves under the Endangered Species Act.

The return to federal protection meant farmers and ranchers in the three states no longer could act to protect their livestock from problem wolves. Instead, they must contact a federal animal control expert from USDA Wildlife Services when problems occur.

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“Choosing between protecting their livelihood or complying with a federal judicial decision is a choice no farmer should have to make,” Peterson said in a statement. “The gray wolf population should be managed by the states, where it belongs. This is practical, bipartisan legislation that balances safety with gray wolf population management and urges states to consult with tribes early and often when crafting management plans.”

Stauber said “Minnesotans know better than Washington bureaucrats” how to manage wolves, and that’s why he joined Peterson in introducing the legislation.

“Despite its evident recovery, the gray wolf remains listed due to arbitrary judicial decisions made thousands of miles away from gray wolf territory,” Stauber said. “In Minnesota, keeping the gray wolf on the Endangered Species List threatens our very way of life, as the animal cannot be deterred while attacks on family owned livestock and pets increase.”

Ag groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association praised the proposal, as did the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

-- Herald staff report

House advances two conservation bills

The House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday passed two pieces of legislation to conserve habitat for fish, migratory birds and other wildlife through partnerships and regional coalitions.

In a bipartisan vote, the committee advanced the North American Wetlands Conservation Act -- best known as NAWCA -- and the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act.

Together, the two bills create a model for conservation that is driven by local and regional engagement and stakeholder collaboration, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a proponent of the bills.

Since its inception in 1989, NAWCA grants totaling more than $1.73 billion have leveraged $3.57 billion in contributions from partners to voluntarily protect, restore, enhance and manage more than 30 million acres of habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife in all 50 states.

The National Fish Habitat Program since 2005 has made investments in 840 fish habitat conservation projects across all 50 states. The National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act authorizes federal funding for the program and supports the 20 regional partnerships working across the country to conserve priority fish habitats and fish populations.

“These pieces of legislation showcase the very best of conservation,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “These bills invest in strong on-the-ground coalitions that are improving water quality, restoring habitat and strengthening our ecosystems.”

-- Herald staff report

Senate committee OKs Interior spending bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously passed legislation to fund the Department of Interior for fiscal year 2020.

The committee’s passage of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act follows a related appropriations bill the House passed in June.

A few highlights in the Senate bill:

  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund received $465 million for FY2020 spending, $30 million more than FY2019 enacted levels. The House allocated $525 million to LWCF in its appropriations proposal for FY2020.

  • Full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program to help alleviate local economies.

  • $1.399 billion for the Bureau of Land Management, which is a $53 million increase from currently enacted levels.

  • $1.63 billion for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a $52.7 million increase in funding.

  • $7.471 billion for the Forest Service to invest in proactive management programs, including a $19 million increase for hazardous fuels reduction.

Congress recently passed a short-term funding bill that extends fiscal year 2019 enacted funding levels to Nov. 21, giving leadership and appropriators additional time to negotiate a new spending measure.

-- Herald staff report

NDGF, DU offer waterfowl trailer

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department and Ducks Unlimited again this fall are teaming up to offer a trailer full of waterfowl hunting gear that is available to families with young hunters.

Purchased by the Game and Fish Department’s Encouraging Tomorrow’s Hunters grant program, the trailer is designed for families who don’t have the appropriate gear for their young hunters to hunt waterfowl. The equipment is donated by Avery Outdoors.

There’s no charge to use the trailer, and it is equipped with goose and duck decoys for field hunting and two bags of floating duck decoys and marsh seats for hunting a wetland.

For more information or to reserve equipment, contact the Ducks Unlimited office in Bismarck at (701) 355-3500.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department