Sportsmen's Group Walks Out of Wolf Working Group Meeting

Sportsmen's Group Walks Out of Wolf Working Group Meeting

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- The final meeting of the Wolf Working Group ended with no final vote being taken on a proposed wolf management plan and with a sportsmen's group walking out.

Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, which fears wolves' impact on big-game populations, left the meeting soon after it started Tuesday.

The working group has spent two years developing a plan for managing wolves that would take effect if the federal government removes wolves from the endangered list and relinquishes its control over the animals.

The plan's elements have been individually approved with a consensus-minus-two vote from the group's 13 members, which include wolf advocates, biologists, sportsmen and ranchers.

Though the final plan never even came to a vote, Miles Moretti, acting director of the Division of Wildlife Resources, said, "We're still going to move forward with the wolf plan to the public process.

"There are some points that the group could not agree on. We're going to highlight those issues in the public process," he said.

The plan -- which still does not say when ranchers could shoot wolves, for instance -- will be presented to five regional advisory councils and the Wildlife Board in a series of meetings beginning in May.

Don Peay, the influential founder of the sportsmen's group, has vowed to "pack the RACs" with members opposed to wolves.

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho 10 years ago and they have spread through those states as their population has grown. A few of the wolves have been spotted in Utah, and DWR say other stray wolves could start showing up over the next decade, possibly forming packs.

However, they say that without dense concentrations of deer or elk, the wolves may not find Utah hospitable.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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