Elk NetworkLegislative Update

Conservation , Volunteer News | May 20, 2020

October-November 2021

FEDERAL

The bipartisan Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act was introduced in October by Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Representative G.T. Thompson of Pennsylvania to provide $70 million for practical research and management of Chronic Wasting Disease.  The bill passed out of the House Agriculture committee. RMEF helped craft the legislation and has been securing additional support for the measure as part of a strategy to bring solutions to the CWD fight.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework bill (HR3684) that had passed the Senate in August was finally agreed on by the House in November.  The 1.2 trillion dollar bill contained several pieces that are important to elk and elk country.  RMEF worked to include $350 million for big game highway crossings to connect migration corridors and $250 million for Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails to improve access.  The bill includes more than $3 billion for wildfire risk reduction, and $2 billion for replanting and restoration, but perhaps more importantly it expedites linear fuel break projects less than 3,000 acres in size.

 

STATE

A Wisconsin statute requires the state hold a wolf hunt if wolves are not protected by the Endangered Species Act, but a state Circuit Court judge halted the 2021 hunt weeks before it was set to begin.  The ruling contends the state wildlife agency had not established permanent rules for the hunt, in violation of the state constitution.  Parallel to this state issue is a federal suit being brought by tribes contending that the wolf hunt is violating treaty rights.

Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission modified their trapping regulations to comply with Endangered Species Act agreements regarding lynx and grizzly bears.  Wolf trapping in grizzly areas will start after December 31 when bears should be in hibernation. The use of snares on public land in two designated lynx protection zones will be prohibited.  The use of snares during wolf trapping season was authorized by legislation passed this past spring.  Liberalized wolf hunting/trapping regulation passed in Idaho and Montana’s legislature earlier this year are being cited in a new lawsuit aimed at re-listing western wolves on the Endangered Species List.

Wyoming’s legislature defeated legislation this spring that would have changed the allocation of elk tags for nonresidents from 16% to 10%, but the Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce is studying the issue in the interim and taking public comments at wyomingwildlifetaskforce.com.  Every state approaches nonresident tags differently, and the issue is often intertwined with landowner tags and public access incentive programs. Wyoming’s methodical and transparent process through the taskforce is more likely to find reasonable consensus than fighting it out at the state capitol.