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SPRINGVILLE, Utah (AP) -- By a 7-4 vote, the Central Utah Regional Advisory Council has endorsed a proposed wolf management plan that would allow ranchers to shoot wolves on public and private land.
If adopted by the state Wildlife Board, the plan would take effect if the federal government removes wolves from the endangered list and relinquishes its control of the animals to the states.
The regional advisory council's endorsement came early Wednesday following a hearing that had started at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and drew 700 people.
While backing amendments allowing ranchers to shoot wolves on both public and private land, the council did reject an amendment that would have paid ranchers 100 percent of the price of a missing animal even when there is no direct evidence it was killed by a wolf. The proposed plan specifies ranchers will be paid 50 percent of the cost of such missing animals.
Council members also rejected a set of amendments submitted by a group of sport hunters.
More than a dozen of those who spoke said they were opposed to reintroducing wolves to Utah, apparently misunderstanding that wolves may migrate to the state from other areas but are not being reintroduced in the state.
The amendments backed by the regional council would "bring wolves closer to the legal status of bears and cougars," said Mike Bodenchuk of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bears and cougars are considered predators, and ranchers and farmers are allowed to shoot them if they feel the animals are threatening their livestock.
Wolf supporters said allowing them to be shot on public land would mean there is no safe place for the animals.
"This is not fair to the other groups who worked so hard and in good faith to draft the plan, or to taxpayers who funded the work," said Allison Jones of the Utah Wolf Forum. Jones was a member of the Wolf Working Group that drafted the plan.
With the new amendments, the proposed plan has "no semblance of conservation," she said.
Kirk Robinson of the Western Wildlife Conservancy said the amendments could lead to a lawsuit which would delay the wolf management plan for years, giving the wolves more to time to establish themselves in Utah while state government has no say in their management.
Passing a state plan is necessary in order to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give management authority of wolves to the state, said Kevin Bunnell of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
"The ultimate goal is to get management authority to the state as soon as possible," Bunnell said. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said that if wolves disperse to Utah, they are not going to come and get them."
Council members Calvin Crandall and Allan Stevens said farmers and ranchers will shoot wolves no matter what the law is.
"If I see a cougar or wolf harassing my livestock, I'm going to kill it," Stevens said. "Why make an outlaw of the livestock owner?"
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)