Thursday, May 13, 2021

Wildlife management plan stuck in limbo

Editor | April 16, 2021 7:00 AM

Libby officials are tentatively planning a meeting with FWP representatives to finish hashing out the city’s wildlife management plan.

After more than a year of consideration, the portion of the plan pertaining to deer — turkeys are up next — hit a snag in its final stages. Unable to decide on whether to make the proposal a plan or enshrine it as an ordinance, city councilors turned to City Attorney Dean Chisholm to clarify the way forward.

As of April 5, Chisholm said he could go either way with the document, which outlines how the city and state will collaborate on Libby’s urban deer population. If it includes new laws, restrictions or requirements, he would consider it an ordinance. But if it was meant as a plan, city councilors could pass it as a resolution.

Unfortunately, the document contained elements of both, Chisholm said.

“As I look through the plan, it is kind of a mixed bag,” he told city councilors.

Chisholm also looked to other municipalities to see how they handled wildlife management methods. That, too, was a mixed bag. Some adopted the finished document as an ordinance while others preferred passing resolutions, he said.

Depending on city council’s preference, Chisholm volunteered to go through and edit the document to fit either a plan or an ordinance.

“I guess my recommendation is we reform the plan slightly so that it is clearly a plan and adopted by resolution or we decide we want an enforcement mechanism,” he said.

But he expressed hesitation to do so without input from those involved in crafting the document. City councilors assigned to the plan worked closely with FWP officials to delineate responsibilities.

“Obviously, these folks put a lot of work into it along with FWP,” he said. “I don’t want to undo things that were conscientiously thought out. I don’t want to just redline this thing by myself.”

The document outlines when and how officials cull deer within city limits, the tracking of statistics, carcass handling and on-the-ground cooperation with FWP personnel. It grew out of the arrival of chronic wasting disease in the Libby area in recent years. The illness has been more heavily documented in deer living in city limits.

City Councilor Gary Beach said he did not view the document as an ordinance.

“My take on this is that this is just a plan, an outline of what the city would do,” Beach said. “I didn’t interpret this into a punishable law per se. We have other elements that apply for various [circumstances].”

Colleague Rob Dufficy agreed that the document should be treated as a plan and passed by resolution. City councilors Kristin Smith and Peggy Williams espoused similar opinions when the plan last came up for discussion in March.

Mayor Brent Teske has indicated he would prefer to see the framework adopted as an ordinance. Plans, he said last month, tend to get shelved and never looked at again.

Tonya Chilton-Radandt, a biologist for FWP in attendance for the meeting, said she would welcome any opportunity to work with the city on the plan. She offered to attend any future gathering.

Teske thanked Chilton-Radandt for her help as the proposal was tabled for more study.