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This story is excerpted from the MT Lowdown, a weekly newsletter digest containing original reporting and analysis published every Friday.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public input as it dives into a rewrite of its 2003 Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. At Gov. Greg Gianforte’s request, the department is replacing the document that’s guided Montana’s management of gray wolves since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protections — at the direction of the U.S. Congress — in 2011. 

“The new wolf management plan will include the latest science surrounding wolf management, better transparency on wolf management, and be easier to update in the future,” according to an FWP release. “Public input received during the scoping period will help FWP staff determine public interest, identify potential issues that would require further analysis, and may provide further insights for creating the new wolf plan.”

As part of the process, FWP is conducting virtual public scoping meetings on April 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. and on April 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. 

This is the first of what will be several rounds of public comment on the matter. (There will also be comment periods when the draft Environmental Impact Statement and draft plan are released.) For this round, comments are due by April 22. They can be emailed to fwpwolfplaneis@mt.gov

The plan rewrite comes during a turbulent period for wolf management, with proposals seeking to reduce wolf populations garnering considerable public comment during the 2021 legislative session and in Fish and Wildlife Commission meetings. The state’s approach to wolf management also inspired an October lawsuit that’s currently before a state district court judge in Helena. The USFWS is about six months overdue to release a decision that will give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on restoring federal protections for Northern Rockies wolves due to concerns about “human-caused mortality.”

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Amanda Eggert studied print journalism at the University of Montana. Prior to becoming a full-time journalist, Amanda spent four years working with the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter. After leaving the Forest Service in 2014, Amanda worked for Outside magazine as an editorial fellow before joining Outlaw Partners’ staff to lead coverage for Explore Big Sky newspaper and contribute writing and editing to Explore Yellowstone and Mountain Outlaw magazines. Prior to joining Montana Free Press’ staff in 2021 Amanda was a freelance writer, researcher and interviewer. In addition to writing...