I'd written Friday about how the DNR goes about estimating the size of Wisconsin's wolf population prior to a series of advisory committee meetings that will produce a recommendation to state policy-makers about the 2014/15 wolf kill quota.
Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
People with direct knowledge of the procedures used in past years' Wisconsin wolf population estimation have independently contacted me to say they are disappointed that, so far this year, one key step in the process has not taken place:
A day-long public meeting at which people with expertise, tracking data, or an opinion about the validity of numbers brought forward by other persons or groups - - a meeting where numbers were debated and a consensus estimate or range was produced that the DNR would then turn over to the advisory committee for its consideration.
I suppose that meeting could still be held, since Kaminski said the data crunching is still underway, though he did say in the email exchange:
There are not specific meetings for developing these data or for crunching the numbers with our research scientists. So in short, there are not opportunities at that level for the public to provide input on the data, nor are there any meeting minutes associated with the data development to provide.Below is my exchange with Kaminski about data collection and public input prior to the advisory committee meetings.
The data collected through our winter track surveys, along with telemetry data and last year’s harvest data, will all be used to develop minimum winter counts. Based on those counts, the Wolf Advisory Committee will analyze various harvest levels and how each of those is expected to impact the population going forward. Again, this meeting will be open to the public and the public in attendance will be allowed an opportunity to speak, typically at the end of the meeting. Furthermore, the Natural Resource Board will give final approval to recommended quotas and those meetings are typically open to the public and allow public comment. Most likely, the wolf quotas will be addressed at the June Board meeting, although I can’t confirm this for sure as the agenda has yet to be determined. For more information on the NRB meetings, please visit the following web page: http://dnr.wi.gov/about/nrb/.
The minimum winter counts are not completed to my knowledge; they are currently being developed by our staff as we have just finalized the winter track surveys early this month or last month. There are not specific meetings for developing these data or for crunching the numbers with our research scientists. So in short, there are not opportunities at that level for the public to provide input on the data, nor are there any meeting minutes associated with the data development to provide.
And so I understand - - the process to gather and assess the count is a purely internal process, without any outside input - - other than the volunteers'? And is the same process as in past years?
This is the same process that we have previously used and is no different than how we evaluate population data for any other species (committees exist for deer, elk, turkey, grouse, fisheries, etc.). Our research scientists run the statistics on the population data and generate various harvest levels and their expected effects which are presented to the Wolf Advisory Committee for review. The Wolf Advisory Committee is comprised of various state and federal biologists from the DNR, US Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, and US Forest Service, as well as public interests groups such as the Timber Wolf Alliance, WI Bear Hunters Association, Wildlife Federation, WI Trappers Association, and Cattleman’s Association, among others. Also, from my understanding wolf data are independently reviewed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other wolf experts, to ensure reliability and impartiality of our data.
If you have concerns regarding the process, the WAC is currently in the process of revising the state wolf management plan and there will be several opportunities for the public to provide comment and input regarding wolf management in the state. It is too early to know where the various aspects of the plan will be set but there will certainly be opportunities for the public to provide input during the process. Once a draft plan is completed, we will post the plan online and provide a 30-45 day comment period. We will also host public meetings around the state to allow the public to provide comments directly regarding the plan. Once a final draft is developed, we will present the plan to the Natural Resource Board and provide an additional 30-day public comment period. Furthermore, the NRB meetings will be open to the public as to give citizens another opportunity to provide input. I encourage you to participate in this process as there will be multiple opportunities for you to provide comments on the plan. Public input throughout this process is highly important and we are working to provide multiple opportunities for such to better inform our decision-making in the development of the new plan. So far, we have completed a public survey which was sent out to randomly chosen citizens throughout the state to gauge public opinions on various aspects of wolf management; we are currently in the process of compiling those surveys. A draft of the new plan is expected this fall with the final plan going to the NRB for final approval later in winter.