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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Residents will have the opportunity next spring to weigh in with what they think should be included in a statewide plan to manage the gray wolf.
Wildlife biologists have been working on a management plan for some time now. Their efforts received added priority when a gray wolf was captured last fall near Morgan, the first official confirmation of a wolf in Utah in more than 50 years.
The Wolf Management Working Group -- comprised of representatives of the Ute tribe, professors, wolf advocates, hunters, ranchers, elected officials, environmentalists and a member of the Utah Wildlife Board -- met for the first time last week
"Mostly we talked about how do we work, how do we address the issues and the nuts and bolts of upcoming meetings," said Miles Moretti, assistant director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
The DWR has agreed to establish a wolf information page on its Web site where minutes of meetings and other information on the animal will be posted.
In March, members will begin holding a series of public hearings around the state.
The federal government recently reclassified the gray wolf, downgrading its federally protected status from endangered to threatened. However, they still are endangered in southern Utah, where wolves have not been seen in decades.
Threatened status means ranchers can kill wolves but only if the animals are caught in the act of killing livestock. Under the endangered status, only the federal government could remove or kill wolves.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to de-list the wolf altogether and turn management authority over to the states, but states must first have a management plan.
The Wolf Forum, Utah State University, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife, Utah Farm Bureau, Utah Wool Growers, Utah Association of Counties, the Ute Indian Tribe, Utah Audubon and Utah Wildlife Federation are all represented on the Wolf Management Working Group.
Kevin Conway, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, praised the public input process adopted by the working group, saying it would give all Utah residents the chance to monitor what the group is doing and to offer their own input.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)