Fish and Game Commission ratifies gray wolf findings for California

David Smith, GateHouse Media California
Top: The California Fish and Game Commission, along with staff, during their Oct. 8, 2014 meeting. Bottom left, Sheriff Jon Lopey spoke at the meeting in Mount Shasta, citing his concerns about personal safety and losses to livestock owners if wolves reestablish in the state. 
Bottom right, Damon Nagami, senior counsel for the Natural Resources Defense Council, speaks in support of the decision to list gray wolves as endangered in California.

The California Fish and Game Commission drew a crowd for its meeting Wednesday in Mount Shasta, where it ratified findings supporting the listing of the gray wolf as an endangered species in California.

The species, which is not considered to be established in the state yet, has been considered recovered enough to be removed from the federal endangered list.

The question of whether California would extend protections to the animal brought the public out in droves to meetings around the state, and Wednesday’s meeting also drew opinions on all sides of the issue.

While a number of speakers urged the commission to not list the wolf, and others celebrated the listing, Commissioner Michael Sutton reminded everyone that the listing decision was made months ago at the commission’s June 4 meeting in Fortuna.

The decision Wednesday was whether to accept the language in the draft findings that support the Commission’s decision to list the wolf.

Twenty-nine constituents took the floor to air their concerns before the commission, and the impacts of the wolf on agriculture was a central topic for many. A concurrent topic – the efforts to draft a California Wolf Management Plan – was also cited numerous times, due largely to the potential restrictions represented by the endangered listing.

Speakers from cattlemen’s associations, farm bureaus and Siskiyou County relayed to the commission that the California Endangered Species Act limits the types of management options available to livestock owners in order to thwart predation by wolves.

Supporters of the listing called on the commission to recognize potential benefits to the tourism industry, and others noted that there are non-lethal measures for coexisting with wolf populations.

Commissioner Jacqueline Hostler-Carmesin, echoing concerns when she voted no to listing the wolf in June, voted against ratifying the draft findings.

She told the commission she believes the agricultural community needs a clearer understanding of what it can and cannot do to respond to wolves before a listing is made. She expressed concerns that groups working on the wolf management plan will no longer wish to participate if management options are severely limited by CESA.

With only Hostler-Carmesin voting no, the commission ratified its findings.